Pluto may have a liquid ocean on the radioactive heating


25/11/2011

When automatic space station NASA "New Horizons" will reach Pluto in 2015 and send it to Earth photo, it will allow astronomers to determine whether the ocean lies beneath its icy surface. This will open the door to new possibilities of the existence of water on the other bodies of the solar system. The new study not only showed that the existence of such ocean is very likely, but possible to identify the signs by which it will be possible to confirm his suschestvanie.

Pluto’s surface is composed of a thin layer of nitrogen ice, beneath which is a layer of water ice. Planetary scientists Guillaume Robukon and Francis Nimmo, both of the University of California at Santa Cruz, wanted to find out whether the existence of the ocean under the ice crust, and what are the visible signs on the surface may indicate its existence.

They created a model of the thermal evolution of the dwarf planet and studied the behavior of the surface to understand what impact it will have on the presence beneath the surface of the ocean.

Being in the forty times farther from the Sun than the Earth, Pluto is an unlikely candidate to possess the ocean even subsurface. However the heat required to melt the years can flow inside.

The heat source is probably the radioactive decay of isotopes. The key element, according to scientists, is potassium - if it occurs in the nucleus in sufficient quantities, it would lead to melting of the ice above it.

The chances of this are not bad, in fact enough for one tenth of the amount of potassium, which is found in meteorites of the early solar system.

"I think that Pluto enough potassium to maintain the ocean" - said Nimmo.

As shown model planetary ocean has an average depth of 165 kilometers and under a crust of ice approximately the same thickness.

If a subsurface ocean exists on this dwarf planet, the other objects of the Kuiper belt are more suitable for life than previously thought.

"They definitely have the same oceans, since the size of some of them is comparable to the size of Pluto," - said Nimmo.

Some of them may not only contain liquid water, but also necessary for the origin of life elements that are not present on Pluto.

Original: Physorg


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