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Pluto Has Giant Ice Volcanoes that Could Hint at Existence of an Underground Ocean With Life

in Astronomy/Enviroment 184 views

As spacecraft New Horizons recently sauntered past Pluto, images sent back to Earth made their way into the hands of a team that confirmed a large part of the dwarf planet’s surface was molded by ice volcanos—and some eruptions are fairly recent on the cosmos calendar.

The findings provide much more detailed evidence about volcanoes on Pluto, and suggest that with all the ice contained there, heat from the planet’s core could maintain a subsurface ocean, a feature known to exist on other planets.

The idea conjures images from mythology or fantasy fiction: a frozen world where volcanoes belch liquid nitrogen and ice, and where underground, close to the pressures and heat of the world’s heart, a vast ocean lies in total darkness. Ce la space.

Ice volcanoes are known from other worlds like Enceladus, the ice-moon of Jupiter, but not like this.

180 miles of Pluto’s surface is ice formed from H20, under which could be a liquid water ocean, according to some existing models in which such a scenario is possible. Back on the surface, nitrogen ice sits at a temperature much closer to its melting point, even in the frigidity of Plutonian weather.

In these conditions, scientists looking at the pictures from New Horizon posit that an area of “hummocky” texture and large rises and mounds located southwest of the famous Sputnik Planitia nitrogen ice sheet was formed by volcanoes.

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Gigantic Planet Found Hidden in Plain Sight

in Astronomy 175 views

An astronomer and a group of eagle-eyed citizen scientists have discovered a giant gas planet hidden from view by typical stargazing tools.

The planet, TOI-2180 b, has the same diameter as Jupiter, but is nearly three times more massive. Researchers at UC Riverside also believe it contains 105 times the mass of Earth in elements heavier than helium and hydrogen. Nothing quite like it exists in our solar system.

“TOI-2180 b is such an exciting planet to have found,” said UCR astronomer Paul Dalba, who helped confirm the planet’s existence. “It hits the trifecta of 1) having a several-hundred-day orbit, 2) being relatively close to Earth (379 lightyears is considered close for an exoplanet), and 3) us being able to see it transit in front of its star. It is very rare for astronomers to discover a planet that checks all three of these boxes.”

Dalba also explained that the planet is special because it takes 261 days to complete a journey around its star, a relatively long time compared to many known gas giants outside our solar system. Its relative proximity to Earth and the brightness of the star it orbits also make it likely astronomers will be able to learn more about it.

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