A study has discovered strange, jagged terrain on Pluto, unlike anything previously observed in the Solar System: it houses giant ice volcanoes, which were active until recently. One of them is the size of one of the largest volcanoes on Earth: Mauna Loa, in Hawaii.
Using data and images obtained by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, a group of researchers has been able to identify regions with very few impact craters on Pluto, which are dominated by Huge ice lifts With wings stacked. According to scientists, there are no similar features anywhere else in the solar system.
According to a press release, instead of releasing lava into the air, ice volcanoes appear as a thicker, muddy mixture of freezing water, or perhaps Solid glacier-like flow. Scientists have verified that the interior of Pluto presented high temperatures reaching closer time periods than previously thought. The research, led by Kelsi Singer, a planetary scientist at the Southwest Colorado Research Institute in the US, was recently published in the journal Nature Communications.
A process with unique properties in the solar system
PlutoIt was discovered in 1930 by the American astronomer Clyde Tombaugh, named after the Roman mythological god of the same name. It was considered a satellite of Neptune and then another planet in the solar system, until the General Assembly of the International Astronomical Union held in Prague on August 24, 2006 created a new class called “plutoid”. From that moment on, Pluto was considered a dwarf planet.
When were the images analyzed in this research taken? New Horizons, a NASA nuclear-powered unmanned spacecraft, became the first mission to cross Pluto in 2015. Data shows that the terrain on Pluto extends to A variety of agesranging from relatively old regions with many impact craters, produced by exoplanets during the formation of the Solar System, to very small surfaces with few or no craters.
Specifically, the Strange ice volcanoes They are seen in areas with few craters, and, according to scientists, are caused by the processes of ice volcanoes, of a type and scale that were hitherto restricted to Pluto. A glacial volcano is an extraterrestrial volcano of ice and water, which, despite the low temperatures, limits its activity thanks to the internal accumulation of heat.
Water in the small and icy worlds
According to specialists, the creation of this uneven ground It requires multiple volcanic eruption sites and a large amount of material, to form multiple domes several kilometers in height, some of which combine to create more complex shapes. Although ice volcanoes were once thought to exist on several cold moons in the solar system, they appear on Pluto in a unique way: one structure, called Wright Mons, is about five kilometers high and 150 kilometers wide, about the same size as one of the largest. On Earth: Mauna Loa, in Hawaii.
The discovery suggests that an object as small as Pluto, which should have long ago lost much of its internal heat, was able to retain enough energy to facilitate modern and large-scale geological activity. Although it is difficult to determine exactly when the ice volcanoes formed, experts believe they could be a few hundred million years or even younger. These results will force us to re-evaluate the possibilities Preserving liquid water in icy little worlds far from the sunAccording to the researchers.
The appearance of volcanic eruptions on a large scale on Pluto. Kelsey Singer et al. Nature Communications (2022). DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-022-29056-3
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