back to article Pluto has massive underground oceans, say astro-boffins

Pluto may contain a colossal underground ocean, say New Horizons mission scientists. Two new Letters in Nature, Reorientation of Sputnik Planitia implies a subsurface ocean on Pluto and Reorientation and faulting of Pluto due to volatile loading within Sputnik Planitia considers the icy heart-shaped “lava lamp” found on the …

  1. wolfetone

    Pluto's a dog. How can a dog have underground oceans?

    Silly scientists.

    1. alain williams Silver badge

      What drains off lamp posts has to go somewhere ...

      1. Tom 7 Silver badge

        Ureaka: What drains off lamp posts has to go somewhere ...

        So the universe is expanding to get away from Pluto's smelly dark matter! It all fits!

  2. Matthew Taylor

    Plutonian overlords lurking in the ocean?

    This post was nothing but a faint excuse to write the word "Plutonian".

    1. Little Mouse

      Re: Plutonian overlords lurking in the ocean?

      "Night's Plutonian Shores", shirley?

      (It's dark on Pluto, AND there's oceans involved)

    2. AceRimmer1980

      Re: Plutonian overlords

      'Plutocrats', shurely

      1. You aint sin me, roit

        Re: Plutonian overlords

        Warmed by radioactive waters...

        I want to call them "Mutant Plutants" (but obviously not to their many tentacled faces).

  3. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    An ocean 100Km deep.

    That's pretty impressive.

    OTOH how far under the surface is it?

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Past and present

    "Pluto may contain a colossal underground ocean"

    It seems very unlikely that Pluto still has an underground ocean but it may well have had one a few billions years ago when the Sputnik Planitia was formed.

    The assertion that there are two reasons why Pluto could currently have a liquid underground ocean is flawed. Firstly, tectonic activity is a consequence of internal heat, not a cause of it, and secondly, Pluto is so small that after ~4 billion years there will be hardly any radioactivity left.

    1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

      Re: Past and present

      Sputnik Planitia looks very much like a young feature, given the lack of craters, so I doubt its formation took place billions of years ago

    2. Andrew Newstead

      Re: Past and present

      Hold on, this is not an assertion but one of two different theories that have been offered to explain the observed data from New Horizons.

      Your observations about the conditions on Pluto may indeed be correct, but there is evidence of the movement of the Sputnik Planitia within recent geological timescales. That and the visual absence of cratering on the surface of the Planitia, which is accepted as evidence of the activity of some sort of process that has recently (geologically speaking again) reshaped the area, leaving a smooth surface.

      Some sort of activity is happening out there, that is apparent, and that implies a source of energy to drive it. This is just an attempt to explain that, not proof.

      1. Tom 7 Silver badge

        Re: Past and present

        Two possibilities:

        1)The impact that cause Sputnik Planitia created the heat required to cause the effects we now observe.

        2) The impact crater looks as if the impact may have been slow - this may have been a moon whose eccentric orbit caused heating of Pluto before impact

    3. Hairy Spod

      Re: Past and present

      yeah but its called Pluto so its prolly full of plutonium

    4. Faux Science Slayer

      "Earth's Missing Geothermal Flux" at FauxScienceSlayer

      Half life of Uranium is 3.8 billion years, half life of Thorium is 13 billion years, however, these are

      TERRESTIAL EARTH ARTIFACTS, and vary with temperature, pressure and particle bombardment.

      Bridgemann Effect, under 100 atmospheres, with Hydrogen, every metallic element is radioactive.

  5. PK

    So was Larry Niven right?

    ...that an alien ship collided with a moon of Neptune, knocking it out of orbit to become Pluto (World of Ptavvs)

  6. AwesomeKhan

    Pluto is a planet - End of

    no further comment required

    1. Olius

      Re: Pluto is a planet - End of

      You gonna put that in your speech tonight? - "Pluto is a planet" - they love that.

      (Whoever downvoted you is clearly missing out on some hot Rick and Morty action)

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    tidal heating ?

    Although Pluto and Charon are tidally locked and Charon's orbit is pretty circular could the fact that the barycenter lies outside of Pluto cause a form of tidal heating since the gravitational pull of Charon will vary as they both orbit around the barycenter or would the effect be much too small ?

    1. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

      "Qualitively" (aka I can't be bothered to dig out any fomulae)

      The most important point is that Pluto is phase locked to Charon; i.e. Pluto always presents the same face to Charon. For that to happen, there must be body tides in Pluto. How much heating they cause is another matter.

      I'd be tempted to say the heating would be greater if the barycentre was inside Pluto, and Charon's orbit was more eccentric and less coplanar. But maybe Charon's mass (12% of Pluto's) more than makes up for that.

  8. MotionCompensation

    It's the plutonium, stupid!

    "Firstly, Pluto's still got some nuclear action going on way down below"

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If Pluto and Goofy are both dogs...

    ...why doesn't Pluto wear any pants?

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2020