Pluto Has Oceans Under Ice?

Frigid Pluto, home to some of our solar system’s chilliest real estate, may well harbor an ocean beneath its miles-thick ice shell, new research suggests.

Despite its extreme cold, the dwarf planet still appears to be warm enough to “easily” have a subsurface ocean, according to a new model of the rate at which radioactive heat might still warm Pluto’s core.

And that ocean wouldn’t be a mere puddle, noted planetary scientist Guillaume Robuchon of the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Rather, the ocean could be 60 to 105 miles (100 to 170 kilometers) thick beneath a 120-mile (200-kilometer) layer of ice, Robuchon said at an annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco earlier this week.

If so, Pluto would join a list of outer solar system bodies—such as Saturn’s moons Titan and Enceladus—believed to possibly hold liquid water, a key ingredient for life as we know it.

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