NEW YORK, BRONX (ORDO News) — A peculiar feature on Pluto’s surface, situated within the Heart of Pluto, has captured the attention of scientists due to its abundance of water ice and the presence of deep faults.
This unique formation is believed to be a cryovolcano, a type of volcano that emits a combination of water and ice rather than molten rock.
The discovery of this cryovolcano could provide valuable insights into the internal structure of the dwarf planet.
In 2015, NASA‘s New Horizons spacecraft conducted a flyby of Pluto, capturing images and collecting spectral data that shed light on the composition of Pluto’s surface. While the public marveled at the heart-shaped region on Pluto known as “Tomba,” scientists were focused on identifying cryovolcanic regions.
Cryovolcanoes, distinct from their traditional counterparts, expel a mixture of water and ice. These formations are not exclusive to Pluto but exist throughout the Solar System, with occurrences on the moons of Saturn and Jupiter, as well as on Ceres and Pluto.
Research indicates that cryovolcanism has played a significant role in shaping the surfaces of celestial bodies. Remarkably, in 2018, geologists from Moscow State University made the groundbreaking discovery of cryovolcanoes on Earth, located in Russia.
Now, planetary scientist Dale Cruikshank and his colleagues have unveiled a substantial cryovolcano within the Heart of Pluto.
The region surrounding the Kiladze crater drew immediate interest from scientists upon the release of observations from the New Horizons mission. Spectral analysis of this area suggested the presence of water ice, while much of Pluto’s surface consists of methane and nitrogen ice. What makes this discovery even more intriguing is the detection of ammonia within the water ice.
This element typically cannot persist on the planet’s surface for an extended period, as it is susceptible to degradation by cosmic rays and ultraviolet radiation.
While one hypothesis suggested that the Kiladze crater may have formed as a result of a meteorite impact, the crater’s distinctive shape and signs of tectonic activity in the region have led scientists to favor an alternative origin, possibly linked to internal processes within Pluto.
The Kiladze crater, oval in shape, measures approximately 46 kilometers in length and 36 kilometers in width. It appears to rest on top of the surrounding terrain and is likely much younger than the terrain itself. Researchers speculate that the surface water ice in the region may be just a few million years old.
Cryovolcanism on Pluto is driven by internal heat, although the exact source of this heat remains unclear. Pluto has a rocky core enveloped by an icy layer, but what sustains the heat within this icy layer is still a subject of investigation.
While the decay of radioactive elements is a possible heat source, calculations suggest that it may no longer provide sufficient energy to support Pluto’s current cryovolcanism.
Researchers hope that studying cryovolcanic regions will help unravel the mysteries of Pluto’s internal dynamics and the heat source responsible for these unique geological features. This discovery opens a new chapter in our understanding of the distant and enigmatic dwarf planet.
News agencies contributed to this report, edited and published by ORDO News editors.
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