When in 2015 the interplanetary station “Newhorizons "flew over Pluto, the scientists' view of the dwarf planet has changed dramatically. The most important discovery for them was that under the "icy heart" of a space object there could well be a liquid ocean. It seemed impossible, because the planet is located very far from the Sun, does not have a molten core and is not next to a giant planet that can warm it. Now scientists have a fairly plausible explanation for this phenomenon.
Scientists from Japan and the US have figured out what to keepthe ocean under the surface of Pluto in the liquid state can gas hydrates. This is a special form of water where ice forms a crystal lattice that is captured by gases such as methane. Hydrates are very viscous and have a low thermal conductivity - that is, they perfectly retain heat. It was previously known that 6.4 trillion tons of methane hydrates are located at the depth of the earth’s oceans, and now, perhaps, they are even on Pluto.
Computer simulation has shown that withoutthe presence of gas hydrates water on Pluto would have frozen hundreds of millions of years ago. The researchers believe that they were formed due to methane coming from the stony core of the planet - perhaps because of this, Pluto’s atmosphere is so poor in methane and rich in nitrogen.
The new discovery proves that liquid oceans may exist under the surface of other planets, where the probability of preserving liquid water is almost impossible.
This may mean that there are more oceans in the Universe than previously thought, which makes the existence of extraterrestrial life more plausible.
Shunichi Kamata, Team Leader, Hokkaido University
Pluto has an extremely difficult fate - in 2006 itsdeprived of the status of a full-fledged planet, and in 2019 they completely predicted that very soon its atmosphere could freeze and disappear. More information about this can be found in our material.
Discuss this and other topics of science and technology in our Telegram-chat. Join and chat with interesting people at any time!