Pluto Is Hiding Oceans of Liquid Water, Says New NASA Research

Monday, 04 December 2017 - 1:58PM
Space
Alien Life
Monday, 04 December 2017 - 1:58PM
Pluto Is Hiding Oceans of Liquid Water, Says New NASA Research
Image credit: NASA
Frigid worlds like Pluto may be hiding liquid water oceans capable of harboring life, according to NASA researchers.
 
Pluto has not had the greatest run when it come to its astronomical status; losing its status as the ninth planet in 2006 has got to be tough. Now identified as a dwarf planet, or even the less lustrous standing of a TNO (trans-Neptunian object), might make the icy sphere seem not so important. 

However, Prabal Saxena of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center (and lead author of the research paper "Relevance of Tidal Heating on Large TNOs") has announced he believes Pluto and other TNOs need to be "considered as potential reservoirs of water and life."
 
"If our study is correct, we now may have more places in our solar system that possess some of the critical elements for extraterrestrial life," Saxena said.
 
There's no question the TNOs are too cold to support liquid surface water, with temperatures far below 300-degrees Fahrenheit.

However, underground pockets of water may exist, as heat created by gravitational play between these outer places and their moons, with these theories bolstered visually, as Saxena writes in the paper that "besides Pluto, Quaoar, Haumea and (225088) 2007 OR10 (all TNOs) all have exhibited either bulk density, surface color, and/or spectroscopic evidence that may be consistent with surface liquid water activity."

 
For these worlds, the moons may be tugging quite a bit, for if the TNOs have satellites born of collisions, the orbits may not be stable, creating gravitational stretching of these objects, which could create friction that would release the heat needed to keep the water wet.
 
"We found that tidal heating can be a tipping point that may have preserved oceans of liquid water beneath the surface of large TNOs like Pluto and Eris to the present day," said paper co-author and fellow NASA researcher Wade Henning.
 
Heat may also be derived from decaying radioactive elements in the TNO bodies.
 
Combine these objects with the icy moons around Jupiter and Saturn, and suddenly you have a solar system that may offer liquid water—what science considers the key element for life—at many turns.
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Pluto Is Hiding Oceans of Liquid Water, Says New NASA Research
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