Pluto, Solar System's dwarf planet could in fact be a giant comet

Rodiano Bonacci
Mag 26, 2018

The data to compare Pluto's make up with that of a comet came from the ESA's Rosetta mission, notes the report. Pluto, inning accordance with a set of Southwest Research study Institute researchers, is generally a thick comet. "New Horizons offered an unmatched and advanced view of Pluto, however it just scratched the surface", he stated.

The new study analyzed Pluto's chemical composition and uncovered a number of similarities between the dwarf planet and comet 67P, the famous "snowstorm" comet made popular on Twitter last month. This shut encounter, which is able to happen on January 1, 2019, about 1 billion miles (1.6 billion kilometers) past Pluto's orbit, is the centerpiece of New Horizons' prolonged mission.

Pluto may not be categorised as a planet any more, but it still holds plenty of fascination.

According to Cristopher Glein, the huge amounts of nitrogen found inside Sputnik Planitia leads to the theory that Pluto was formed by an agglomeration of about a billion comets and other space rocks from the Kuiper Belt.

"We've developed what we call "the giant comet" cosmochemical model of Pluto formation", Christopher Glein of the Southwest Research Institute's Space Science and Engineering Division said in a statement.

Focusing largely on an area of Pluto known as Sputnik Planitia, the scientists explain that the chemical composition of the region - packed with nitrogen - seems to match up shockingly well with that of a well-studied comet. Because of its low viscosity at Pluto's surface temperatures, nitrogen is able to flow like glaciers on Earth - eroding the bedrock and changing the shape of the landscape.

The new research, which was published in the journal Icarus, uses the wealth of data gathered by the New Horizons mission to suggest the possibility that Pluto is really just a big ball of crashed comets.

The scientists also examined another potential model in which Pluto was created from extremely cold ice.

The core of this model is a glacier present on the surface of Pluto which contains high levels of nitrogen.

"Our analysis means that Pluto's preliminary chemical make-up, inherited from cometary constructing blocks, was chemically modified by liquid water, maybe even in a subsurface ocean", Glein mentioned.

"Utilizing chemistry as a detective's software, we're in a position to hint sure options we see on Pluto right this moment to formation processes from way back", he added.

"This research builds upon the fantastic successes of the New Horizons and Rosetta missions to expand our understanding of the origin and evolution of Pluto", said Glein. "This results in a brand new appreciation of the richness of Pluto's 'life story, ' which we're exclusively beginning to grasp".

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