Scientists have already observed that Pluto has a heart-shaped area formed by ice. But how did this happen?
According to research carried out by French scientists Tanguy Bertrand and François Forget, the presence of this glacier is the result of a combination of local surface features and atmospheric processes.
In the study, published in the journal Nature in 2016, researchers detailed the giant ice structure is formed by frozen nitrogen mixed with carbon monoxide and methane.
It covers an area four kilometers deep and one thousand kilometers wide on Pluto’s Sputnik Plain.
To understand the origins of this glacier, the two scientists performed numerical simulations of the evolution of the chemical components of the dwarf planet’s ice deposits over 50,000 Earth years. They found that the terrain affected the formation of the glacier, intensifying the cooling of the ice.
Weather cycles also showed seasonal frosts that match data collected by NASA’s New Horizons mission and observations of a polar glow seen since 1985.
The scientists’ simulation even pointed out that these seasonal frosts are expected to disappear within the next decade. The study authors say that future observations may provide new opportunities to test their models.
Another study published in Nature Communications in March of this year highlights that there is more evidence that ice “volcanoes” became active until recently on Pluto.
Instead of spewing lava, they eject a thick, muddy mixture of water and ice, “or maybe a solid fluid like glaciers” from Earth, Kelsi Singer, a planetary scientist at the Southeast Research Institute in Colorado, told AFP.
The research was possible by analyzing data and images that the New Horizons probe, the first spacecraft that explored Pluto in 2015, generated.
Pluto was once a planet
Pluto was discovered in 1930 and was highlighted for years as the ninth planet in the Solar System.
In general, a planet is considered as such when it is a celestial body, without light of its own, that revolves around a star.
In the case of Pluto, astronomers considered it too small. Another fact is that its orbit with respect to the Sun is influenced by the orbit of Neptune. Therefore, it is not parallel to that of the other planets in the Solar System.
The change was controversial. In 2019, NASA claimed that Pluto it should be considered a planetwhich reignited the discussions.
In 2021, a new group of scientists argued that his downgrade was based on backward ideas. So far, Pluto remains unclassified as a planet.