Among the known features of Pluto so far, there are other newly discovered features.
Pluto’s warm heart
Our whole thinking about Pluto changed when New Horizons passed by Pluto in 2015. We witnessed it transform from a desolate, frozen piece of rock into an active planet. A heart-shaped region in the northern hemisphere was named Tombaugh Regio. Astronomers studying this region have found evidence of an ocean beneath the surface. Tombaugh Regio has abundant nitrogen, carbon monoxide, and methane ice.
This research shows that there is a layer of gas hydrate (ice-like frozen gases trapped in molecular water) insulating this region of Pluto. This layer prevents the interior areas from freezing. Oceanic planets are an interesting research topic in the Solar System, as they provide the basic environment for the origin of life.
The planetary debate has started again. Pluto was considered a planet until 2006
On April 29, 2019, an unofficial vote was held in favor of reinstating Pluto as a planet. Rankings Alan Stern (New Horizons project) and Ron Ekers (former president of the International Astronomical Union) joined names like experts on the subject.
In 2006, the International Astronomical Union removed Pluto from planetary status. One of the criteria for being a planet was that the circumference of its orbit was empty. Pluto’s orbit did not meet this requirement, as it intercepted Neptune’s orbit. After much discussion on the subject in the 2019 vote, Stern took the floor and argued that Pluto is a world with oceans, mountains, and glaciers.
He underlined that in the region after Neptune, it would not be possible to create an open orbit, since the distance from the Sun is too much. After the discussion, voting took place. While 30 people wanted to keep Pluto as a dwarf planet, 130 said it should be considered a planet again.
Ammonia makes Pluto look young
“Pluto’s system complexity, geology, moons, and atmosphere were beyond our wildest estimations.”
Ammonia is one of the building blocks of life and a compound that astronomers love to see. When it is detected in other celestial bodies, a study is started immediately on whether that place supports life.
Of course, it’s very difficult for Pluto to support life as we know it, for other reasons. It’s small in size, very far from the Sun, has no atmosphere… The list goes on and on, but ammonia still draws the attention of astrobiologists.
” Ammonia is a fragile molecule, ” says Cristina Dalle Ore of NASA’s Ames Research Center. It is destroyed by cosmic rays and ultraviolet radiation. So, finding traces of it on the surface indicates that it has been there for several million years, ” he says. So, there is some kind of geological activity that causes ammonia to rise to the surface. This could be due to volcanic eruptions, active vents, or whatever connection exists between the upper crust and the ocean below. Currently, studies are focusing on identifying where this ammonia comes from.
Pluto’s past and future
Since Pluto is very, very far from us, there isn’t much research on it. For a long time, it was observed with telescopes on Earth. The most detailed map of the dwarf planet was made with the Hubble Space Telescope between 2002 and 2003. This was not enough for NASA. That’s why a space probe was sent to Pluto.
This mission, called New Horizons, began on January 19, 2006. It traveled through space for nine years and reached Pluto in July 2015. Pluto passed within 12,500 kilometers of the planet and saw an incredibly interesting geological structure. After analyzing the incoming data in detail, the New Horizons team suggested that there may be an ocean under the earth’s crust. This is a theory that explains how water came into existence in the Solar System.
After the information received from New Horizons, scientists became more interested in Pluto. A helper may come to NASA very soon in this regard. The “Pluto Hopper” planned to be produced by the Global Aerospace Corporation (GAC) offers new horizons for researching the dwarf planet. The goal of this space mission is to land a spacecraft on Pluto’s surface in an inflatable balloon. The only problem here is that Pluto’s atmosphere is extremely thin. Pluto’s gravity is about six percent of Earth’s.
When the spacecraft arrives at Pluto, its speed will be very high and will need to be slowed down considerably. Landing a vehicle on the surface of a tiny dwarf planet is a challenge, but not impossible. The spacecraft ‘ Pluto Hopper ‘ that will take us back to Pluto is still in the design phase.