Pluto surprise: Ice volcanoes indicate dwarf planet is more ‘alive’ than researchers thought Science

Pluto surprise: Ice volcanoes indicate dwarf planet is more 'alive' than researchers thought  Science

A series of dome-shaped ice volcanoes have been identified on Pluto, Structures unlike anything known in our Solar System.

Volcano, who may still be activeThe dwarf planet was identified through data from the New Horizons spacecraft, NASAWhich made a flyby of Pluto in 2015.

The discovery suggests that this distant icy world is more dynamic than scientists thought.

“The finding of these features indicates that Pluto is more active or geologically alive,” said planetary scientist Kelsey Singer of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, lead author of the study published in the journal Nature Communications.

According to scientists, this cryovolcano —which can reach a number of 10 or more– Reach a height of 1 to 7 km. Unlike Earth’s volcanoes, which spew molten gases and rocks, Cryovolcanoes on this dwarf planet spew large amounts of ice, apparently some other frozen material rather than frozen water.Which according to the researchers may have the consistency of toothpaste.

Features of the asteroid belt of the dwarf planet Ceres, Saturn’s moons Enceladus and Titan, Jupiter’s moons Europa and Neptune’s moon Triton have also been identified as cryovolcanoes. But they are all different from Pluto, the researchers said, because of different surface conditions, such as temperature and atmospheric pressure, as well as different mixtures of icy materials.

pluto, Which is smaller than Earth’s Moon and its diameter is about 2,380 km. Is, orbits about 5.8 billion km from the Sun, which is about 40 times more distant than Earth’s orbit. Its surface consists of plains, mountains, craters and valleys.

New Horizons took a picture of Pluto — Photo: NASA/JHU-APL/SWRI

A new study by New Horizons in 2015 analyzed images and data, validating previous hypotheses cryovolcanism on Pluto.

Southwest Research Institute planetary scientist Alan Stern, New Horizons’ principal investigator and study co-author, said the study not only found widespread evidence of cryovolcanism, but also long-lasting, not a single episode.

“The most fascinating thing about Pluto is that it is so complex — as complex as Earth or Mars, despite its small size and great distance from the Sun,” Stern said. “It was a real surprise from the New Horizons flyby, and the new result on cryovolcanism emphasizes this dramatically.”

Like Earth and the other planets in our solar system, Pluto formed about 4.5 billion years ago. Based on the absence of impact craters that typically accumulate over time, it appears that their cryovolcanoes are relatively recent – ​​having formed within the last few hundred million years.

“It is young on the geologic time scale. Since there are almost no impact craters, it is possible that these processes are still going on today,” Singer said.

About the author: Raven Weber

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