There has always been a mystery as to why Pluto's heart-shaped basin never faces its moon, called Charon. The dwarf planet and its moon are tidally locked in orbit. That means they always have the same sides facing each other. Scientists thought it was peculiar that Pluto's basin was almost perfectly aligned with the orbit of Charon.
The Planet Could Be Hiding An Icy Ocean Beneath It
What could cause Pluto's "heart" to line up in this way? One explanation: There's something there throwing Pluto off balance. Richard Binzel, an MIT professor who has been studying the dwarf planet since the 1980s said: "We expected that Pluto would be full of surprises, but this one knocked our socks off. We're trying to understand what it is that could contribute that mass. And the answer we come to is maybe there's this dense subsurface layer of liquid water, or a slushy layer ... pushing up in the region."
The Ocean May Have Served As The 'Gravitational Anomaly'
Nasa's New Horizons space probe sent pictures as it passed by Pluto in July 2015, which provided clues to this theory. "A thick, heavy ocean, the new data suggest, may have served as a 'gravitational anomaly,' or weight, which would factor heavily in Pluto and Charon's gravitational tug-of-war," according to MIT News. MIT researchers have been a part of the New Horizons team.
"Over millions of years, the planet would have spun around, aligning its subsurface ocean and the heart-shaped region above it, almost exactly opposite along the line connecting Pluto and Charon."
Studies About Planets Are Important In Understanding Their Features
By studying Pluto and other objects in the solar system, we can get a sense of features that could conceivably exist in other planets. Richard Binzel said that the only way to verify the existence of Pluto's icy ocean is to send a spacecraft to orbit Pluto. He admits that underneath the dwarf planet's heart could something else. But if it's true, then it is possible that if there is water in Pluto, life may also exist.