Recent studies show that there is a possibility to have a subsurface ocean underneath Pluto's Sputnik Planitia. But does that mean there could be extraterrestrial life or an exotic alien residing in Pluto? It is most definitely too cold to host any life that would be recognizably human-like, but according to researchers, there is a chance that there could be unrecognizably exotic life in Pluto's heart.
Pluto's Icy Heart Could Be Holding Exotic Alien Life
According to William MacKinnon, a professor at Washington University in St. Louis and co-author of two new Pluto published studies, there is a subsurface ocean underneath the Sputnik Planitia that is filled with ammonia, which is highly toxic to life as we know it. As a result, it's unlikely that we would find any multicellular life on Pluto, simply because the environment is too hostile to life. However, there could still be unicellular or even "pre-cellular" organisms in the ammonia-rich ocean.
Life can tolerate a lot of stuff: It can tolerate a lot of salt, extreme cold, extreme heat, etc. But I don't think it can tolerate the amount of ammonia Pluto needs to prevent its ocean from freezing," MacKinnon said in a statement. "If you're going to talk about life in an ocean that's completely covered with an ice shell, it seems most likely that the best you could hope for is some extremely primitive kind of organism. It might even be pre-cellular, like we think the earliest life on Earth was.
McKinnon believes that the study of the ocean underneath Pluto's icy heart might lead to the discovery of some 'exotic' alien life form on the Kuiper belt. And he also believes that if Pluto has a subsurface ocean, other objects in the region may also have the same formations, according to Nature World News. Interestingly, according to the new study, the ocean underneath Sputnik Planitia in Pluto is also very different from the oceans on Earth.
What is Sputnik Planitia?
Sputnik Planitia originally Sputnik Planum, is a high-albedo ice-covered basin on Pluto, about 1,050 by 800 km (650 by 500 mi) in size (similar to Hudson Bay). It lies mostly in the northern hemisphere but extends across the equator. Much of it has a surface of irregular polygons separated by troughs. The polygons are on average about 33 km (21 mi) across.
The ice composing the basin is thought to consist primarily of nitrogen ice, with smaller fractions of carbon monoxide and methane ice, although relative proportions are uncertain. At Pluto's ambient temperature of 38 K (−235.2 °C; −391.3 °F), nitrogen and carbon monoxide ices are denser and much less rigid than water ice, making glacial-like flows possible; nitrogen ice is the most volatile.