New Horizons Sees Probable Ocean Deep Within Pluto

Pluto has been imagined to be a frozen place long before any spacecraft has come to it. While that is proving to be true, liquid on Pluto still seems to be a possibility. The New Horizons mission sees a probable ocean deep within Pluto.

As the New Horizons mission on Pluto winds down, there is much data that scientists will be going through while the spacecraft heads to out the outer reaches of the solar system. One of those has to do with a speculated ocean to be lying beneath Pluto's icy surface. This speculation has much to do with how certain aspects of Pluto are behaving.

The investigation on the probable subsurface ocean is centered on the Sputnik Planitia. This area is one of the sides of the heart-shaped feature that Pluto is known for. This area has been interesting for astronomers since it has an anomaly. The place is said to be aligned with Pluto's tidal axis. This has caused some astronomers to suspect that something underneath Pluto's surface might be causing it.

Two studies have been made regarding this anomaly, according to Science Daily. One study is led by Franco Nimmo, who is a Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences at the University of California Santa Cruz. The other study is made by James Keane of the University of Arizona.

The studies have been possible because of the measurements made by New Horizons on its Pluto flyby, as Phys Org reports. The measurements especially concentrated on Sputnik Planitia, which has been speculated to be a large impact basin. Measurements taken of the area show that the basin is as large as some of the basins found on Mercury and Mars.

The basin is not only thought to be deep, but it is also bright. The speculation is that it is likely filled with water topped by nitrogen ice. The nitrogen ice is also not that deep, as explained by Nimmo. It is possible to have the nitrogen ice to be just 7 kilometers thick and still create a positive gravity anomaly, he explained.

The nitrogen ice might likely have been fed by nitrogen glaciers. New Horizons have images of what appeared to be nitrogen glaciers from mountains around Sputnik Planitia. The subsurface ocean beneath it could be made up of water with an antifreeze agent. Ammonia is likely the antifreeze agent.

As data from the mission is being studied, some of the shows that New Horizons sees a probable ocean deep within Pluto. More missions on it will determine if this is so. While New Horizons head out of the solar system, a new space suit has been revealed for the Mars One mission.

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