Friday, June 13, 2014

Cracks in Pluto's Moon Could Indicate it Once Had an Underground Ocean

Pluto, Charon, moon, ice, water, NASA, New Horizons, spacecraft
Saturn's moon Enceladus taken by the Cassini spacecraft during its close flyby on March 9 and July 14, 2005.
Some moons around the gas giant planets in the outer solar system have cracked surfaces with evidence for ocean interiors – Jupiter's moon Europa and Saturn's moon Enceladus are two examples. Now, scientists are looking at Pluto's giant moon, Charon.

This would have major implications, because if Charon's icy surface is cracked, that could mean a warm interior, maybe warm enough to have maintained a subterranean ocean of liquid water.

Pluto is an extremely cold, distant world, 29 times farther from the sun than Earth, its surface temperature is estimated to be about 380 degrees below zero Fahrenheit (around minus 229 degrees Celsius). Pluto and its moons are far too cold for liquid water on its surface.

Pluto's distance and small size have limited observations thus far, but NASA's New Horizons spacecraft will be the first to visit Pluto and Charon, in July of 2015, and will provide the most detailed observations to date.

Learn more about this effort from NASA.

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