Researchers suspects gas insulation could be protecting an ocean inside Pluto

Last Updated: May 24, 2019

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Researchers suspects gas insulation could be protecting an ocean inside Pluto
24 May 2019 Current Affairs: Researchers said that computer simulations provide compelling evidence that an insulating layer of gas hydrates could keep a subsurface ocean from freezing beneath Pluto’s icy exterior. The researchers conducted computer simulations covering a timescale of 4.6 billion years when the solar system began to form. The simulations showed the thermal and structural evolution of Pluto’s interior and the time required for a subsurface ocean to freeze and for the icy shell covering it to become uniformly thick. They simulated two scenarios: one where an insulating layer of gas hydrates existed between the ocean and the icy shell, and one where it did not.

Sputnik Planitia:
In July 2015, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft flew through Pluto’s system, providing the first-ever close-up images of this distant dwarf planet and its moons. The images showed Pluto’s unexpected topography, including a white-colored ellipsoidal basin named Sputnik Planitia, located near the equator and roughly the size of Texas.
Because of its location and topography, scientists believe a subsurface ocean exists beneath the ice shell which is thinned at Sputnik Planitia. However, these observations are contradictory to the age of the dwarf planet because the ocean should have frozen a long time ago and the inner surface of the ice shell facing the ocean should have also been flattened. The simulation’s results support the possibility of a long-lived liquid ocean existing beneath the icy crust of Sputnik Planitia.

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