Pluto’s Ocean Could Have The Possibility Of Life

By Rodney Rafols , Dec 03, 2016 01:16 AM EST

As the New Horizons spacecraft leaves Pluto for its next mission, it leaves much data for scientists to study. One of those data and images is Pluto with its heart-shaped basin. There is speculation that underneath that is an ocean. Now there is speculation that Pluto's ocean could have the possibility of life.

With Pluto potentially having an ocean, the next speculation is if it has life there. This has been wondered by William McKinnon, an Earth and Planetary Sciences Professor at Washington University in St. Louis and co-author on two studies about Pluto. The ocean is underneath Sputnik Planitia, and the ocean is said to have much ammonia in it.

Computer simulations have been used by McKinnon to explain how Sputnik Planitia has an ocean underneath, and why it also is underneath Charon all the time. Tidal forces have locked in that side of Pluto to Charon, and it is suspected that the ocean underneath Pluto that is partly responsible for it. This subsurface ocean is said to be 600 miles wide and 50 miles thick.

McKinnon describes the subsurface ocean to be very cold and salty. It has much ammonia in it. Life as we know it could not exist there, but he does not rule out some exotic form of life to have possibly evolved. He compares this to Saturn's moon, Titan, which has a methane sea.

The possibility of other objects having the same ocean might be big as New Horizons sets out towards the Kuiper Belt, according to Phys Org. McKinnon said that there could be objects the size of Pluto there, and could possibly have an ocean as well. Life might be possible then even in a place very far from the Sun, and much different than how we perceive life to be.

McKinnon further reflects that the possible life on Pluto's subsurface ocean might be a pre-cellular type of life. It would likely be the same as the early life forms here on Earth. This would even be more so since the ocean beneath Pluto would be frozen, and made even colder with the presence of ammonia, as Outer Places reports.

New Horizons has given astronomers much to study and speculate about Pluto. Pluto's ocean could have the possibility of life. There is also speculation as to how Pluto's heart has been formed.

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