Research publish in the Journal Nature indicates the subsurface ocean on Pluto under Sputnik Planitia region could be filled with ammonia, similar to what scientists have detected to one of Pluto’s moon, Charon.
“Life as we know it” could not be present in the ammonia-laden subsurface ocean on Pluto, but other unknown “primitive” creatures could be present.
“It’s no place for germs, much less fish or squid, or any life as we know it. But as with the methane seas on Titan—Saturn’s main moon—it raises the question of whether some truly novel life forms could exist in these exotic, cold liquids,” McKinnon said.
The deep nitrogen-covered basin on Pluto, informally named Sputnik Planitia, is located very close to the longitude of Pluto’s tidal axis1 and may be an impact feature, by analogy with other large basins in the Solar System. Reorientation, of Sputnik Planitia arising from tidal and rotational torques can explain the basin’s present-day location, but requires the feature to be a positive gravity anomaly, despite its negative topography. Here we argue that if Sputnik Planitia did indeed form as a result of an impact and if Pluto possesses a subsurface ocean, the required positive gravity anomaly would naturally result because of shell thinning and ocean uplift, followed by later modest nitrogen deposition. Without a subsurface ocean, a positive gravity anomaly requires an implausibly thick nitrogen layer (exceeding 40 kilometres). To prolong the lifetime of such a subsurface ocean to the present day and to maintain ocean uplift, a rigid, conductive water-ice shell is required. Because nitrogen deposition is latitude-dependent, nitrogen loading and reorientation may have exhibited complex feedbacks.
As of December 2015, the confirmed liquid water in the Solar System outside Earth is 25-50 times the volume of Earth’s water (1.3 billion cubic kilometers).
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
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