Pluto Has Ice Volcanoes

Posted: Nov 9 2015, 4:11pm CST | by , in News | Latest Science News


Pluto has Ice Volcanoes
Photo Credit: Getty Images

As technology improves, we are finding out more and more about Pluto. Scientists have been studying the giant mountains that you can see on Pluto's surface, and found out that they might not be volcanoes at all, but rather volcanoes that shoot out ice.

The information comes from the historic Pluto flyby that the New Horizons spacecraft did recently. Discovery News says that the mountains could be more than 100 miles across and several miles high. The depressed shapes on the top signal that they could be volcanic.

“If these are indeed volcanic edifices they would form due to eruption of ice onto the surface of Pluto, rather than eruption of rock. That would be one of the most phenomenal discoveries of New Horizons and it would make Pluto and even more fascinating and unique place than it is already proving itself to be,” said planetary scientist Oliver White, with NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif.

“Whatever they are, they’re definitely weird. Volcanoes is probably the least weird hypothesis at the moment,” he added.

So how do these volcanoes get heated? The natural decay of radioactive elements in the silicate core of Pluto.

“The heat source may have died off quite a bit over the 4.5 billion years of Pluto’s existence,” White said.

“We are dealing with very volatile ices at the surface, if these are indeed cryo-volcanic features, they wouldn’t require as much heat to be mobilized and to erupt onto the surface as rock would for the inner terrestrial planets. While there’s less heat to go around, perhaps you get more bang for your buck, given the nature of these ices,” he said.

Other evidence that was revealed by the study is that Pluto has several other notable things on its surface, including an underground liquid ocean.

Scientists also found that Pluto was colder and smaller than they thought it was, and that the four moons are unsteady and spinning quite quickly.

Another thing they notices is that the moons of Pluto have actually bonded together.

“This seems to be saying to us that at some point in the past, there were more than just the four moons of Pluto – there were at least six,” said New Horizons scientist Mark Showalter, with the SETI Institute in Mountain View, Calif.

“There’s clearly something fundamental about the dynamics of the system that we do not understand,” Showalter said. “We expected chaos, but this is pandemonium.”

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/46" rel="author">Noel Diem</a>
Noel passion is to write about geek culture.




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