Ice volcanoes seven kilometers high have been discovered in Pluto
Researchers have discovered unique volcanoes on the tiny planet Pluto at the edge of the solar system. In the modern cosmic past, sticky water ice must have emerged from the interior of the small planet.
aEven if Pluto lost its title of “planet” on August 24, 2006 and has since been listed only by astronomers as 134340 minor planet, it’s still an exciting celestial body.
With a diameter of 2,377 kilometers, Pluto is the largest known small planet moving in a very eccentric orbit at the edge of our solar system. The distance between it and the Sun is between 4.4 and 7.3 billion km. It takes Pluto approximately 250 years to complete one orbit.
American researchers from southwest research institute Discover a unique form of volcano on Pluto. in the magazine”Nature CommunicationsThey reported that in the recent cosmic past, sticky water ice seeped from the interior of the young planet and accumulated icebergs up to seven kilometers in height. Its diameters range between ten and 150 kilometers.
100 million years of icebergs
Researchers infer the young age of some of these ice volcanoes from the discovery that there are hardly any craters in their vicinity at the edge of the large Sputnik Planitia lowland covered in frozen nitrogen. In this case, researchers understand that the early age is at least 100 million years. This is actually a relatively short period of time considering that Pluto’s age is assumed to be 4.5 billion years.
Frozen volcanoes, in which icy material is ejected from a celestial body instead of hot molten rock, are not in themselves a new phenomenon. Researchers have already observed similar activities on different moons of Jupiter, Saturn and Neptune.
Scientists led by Kelsey Singer say the size and dome-shaped structure of the ice volcanoes on Pluto are unique. The two largest glaciers named Wright Mons and Piccard Mons have been melted. Piccard Mons are similar in size to Mauna Loa in Hawaii.
Water ice covered with frozen nitrogen
The researchers’ findings are based on data from NASA’s space probe.new Horizons, which flew over Pluto at a distance of 12,000 km in July 2015. At this time, high-resolution images of Pluto and its moons can be taken and transmitted wirelessly to Earth for the first time. Spectroscopic measurements, that is, measurements at different wavelengths of light, were also performed.
The scientists reevaluated these measurements. Spectral data show that the mountains of Pluto consist of massive frozen water ice. Then there’s a thin layer of frozen nitrogen and frozen methane on top. The spectra also showed evidence of the presence of organic molecules on the icebergs.
The composition and thickness of the layers varies from mountain to mountain. From this, the researchers concluded that not all icebergs formed at the same time, but gradually.
Charon is half the size of Pluto
Even ice volcanoes are only possible if there is enough thermal energy within the celestial body to drive the process. So the new findings suggest that Pluto has stored heat in its interior for longer than previously thought, or that it has a heat-generating mechanism on its own.
In principle, two effects are in question here: on the one hand, the heat of the decay of radioactive substances can provide active regeneration. Second, the tidal forces between Pluto and its moons can generate heat in its interior.
Charon, the deepest and largest of Pluto’s five known moons, is relatively large with a diameter of more than 1,200 kilometers. Its diameter is more than half the diameter of Pluto. The common center of gravity of both celestial bodies, around which they both move, is located far from Pluto.
Researchers are leaving it open how the tiny planet at the edge of the solar system managed to maintain its inner fire for so long. However, they do not rule out that Pluto is warm indoors today. It is also possible to imagine an ocean of liquid water between the core and the mantle of a celestial body.
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