Pluto’s Icy Surface Covers A Liquid Ocean Underneath

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The smallest planet in our galaxy, Pluto, has always been the odd one out of the bunch. Many details about Pluto are still unknown. What we do know is that, while being located in the outer region of our solar system, Pluto faces temperatures below freezing levels.

The dwarf planet’s shell is made out of frozen nitrogen, so many questions were raised when scientists discovered the liquid ocean in the middle of the planet.

In 2015, when NASA’s New Horizons ship flew near Pluto, it managed to capture pictures that suggested the presence of the liquid in the center of the planet, in an ellipsoidal basin called Sputnik Planitia. Experts have been trying to find an explanation for this, but with no success so far.

Recently, Japanese and American researchers worked together to come up with a solid answer. They used computer simulations to recreate the events surrounding Pluto since the birth of the solar system.

Pluto’s Icy Surface Covers A Liquid Ocean Underneath

After analyzing all of the information they have, the scientists determined that the two regions, namely, the icy shell and the liquid ocean, are separated by a layer of gas hydrates, acting as an insulator.

The gas hydrates prevent the liquid from freezing. The authors of the study say that the gas is probably methane, originating from the planet’s core. Without it, the liquid ocean would have frozen hundreds of millions of years ago. The findings were shared in a paper published in the journal Nature Geoscience.

After this discovery, experts started wondering if a similar situation could be happening in other frozen planets in the universe. If this is true, it could mean that water could be found on more planets than we thought. This could be revolutionary for scientist’s search of alien lifeforms in the universe.

The leader of the study, Shunyi Kamata of Hokkaido University, said: “This could mean there are more oceans in the universe than previously thought, making the existence of extraterrestrial life more plausible.”