Pluto's giant ice volcanoes may still be erupting
By: April Carson
The American space agency NASA claims it has discovered proof of enormous ice volcanoes on Pluto. These could still be active today.
According to NASA's New Horizons spacecraft, the discovery is based on pictures and data collected. Researchers say they discovered a lot of round-shaped features on Pluto's surface in a new research.
The formations hint at the presence of geologic activity linked to ice volcanoes, also known as cryovolcanoes. It's the first time these kinds of structures have been documented in our solar system, according to scientists. Some reached heights of at least seven kilometers and widths of more than 100 kilometers.
Kelsi Singer, a planetary scientist with the New Horizons team at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, said: "The particular structures we examined are unique to Pluto, at least so far." She was the lead author of the study, which was published recently in Nature Communications.
“It's difficult to know when the ice volcanoes formed,” says Singer. The team thinks the volcanoes may be as young as a few hundred million years old or even younger. “It is conceivable that these processes are ongoing in the present day,” he continued.
Pluto formed about 4.5 billion years ago, much like the other planets in our solar system. It is smaller than Earth's moon and travels 5.8 billion kilometers from the sun. That distance is about 40 times further than Earth's orbit. Pluto has flat terrain, mountains, craters, and valleys on its surface.
They examined a region southwest of Sputnik Planitia, a huge, heart-shaped area filled with nitrogen ice. This region is home to Cthulhu Macula, a dark patch on Pluto's surface that appears to be a volcanic deposit. The team used New Horizons' Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) to take high-resolution images of the area.
This may have happened when several volcanic formations collided, according to the researchers. Wright Mons is about as tall as Hawaii's huge Mauna Loa volcano, although it is built differently.
The scientists claimed that Pluto is geologically active. Flowing nitrogen ice glaciers are visible evidence of activity. In addition, on the dwarf planet, nitrogen ice vaporizes during the day and refreezes at night, creating areas where liquid nitrogen turns to solid nitrogen at nightfall.
At NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, planetary scientist Lynnae Quick specializes in ice volcanoes. She called the results "groundbreaking."
"It is remarkable,” Dr. Quick said of the study's findings. According to her, scientists believe that Pluto should have lost a significant portion of its insides' heat a long time ago. However, according to The new research, it was able to retain enough energy "to allow for widespread geologic activity," she added.
Dr. Quick went on to add that the findings may assist scientists re-examine whether similar volcanic activity might have occurred on other tiny, icy worlds located far from the sun.
“If you just had a few parts of the Pluto puzzle, you would have no idea what the other areas looked like," according to Singer. “It's an incredible, awe-inspiring discovery in our understanding of planetary formation and evolution." “Pluto is a geophysical wonderland," she continued.
“It’s telling us how planets can form and evolve in ways that we never expected."
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About the Blogger:
April Carson is the daughter of Billy Carson. She received her bachelor's degree in Social Sciences from Jacksonville University, where she was also on the Women's Basketball team. She now has a successful clothing company that specializes in organic baby clothes and other items. Take a look at their most popular fall fashions on bossbabymav.com
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