Pluto’s Surface Changes Faster Than Eart…

Pluto’s Surface Changes Faster Than Earth’s, And A Subsurface Ocean Is Driving It

“These mountains aren’t static and stable, but rather are temporary water-ice mountains atop a volatile, nitrogen sea. The evidence for this comes from multiple independent observations. The mountains only appear between the hilly highlands, after the edge of a basin rim, and young plains with flowing canals. These young plains occur in Pluto’s heart-shaped lobe, which itself was caused by an enormous impact crater. Only a subsurface, liquid water ocean beneath the crust could cause the uplift we then see, leaving the nitrogen to fill it in.”

In July of 2015, NASA’s New Horizons Mission arrived at Pluto, photographing the world at the highest resolution ever, with some places getting as up-close as just 80 meters (260 feet) per pixel. Not bad for a world more than 3 billion miles (5 billion kilometers) from home! What we’ve learned is breathtaking. Rather than a static, frozen world, we found one with tons of evidence for active, interior geology, as well as with a changing surface that renews itself and undergoes cycles, quite unexpectedly to many. There’s also not an enormous heart, but rather a massive, volatile-filled crater that caused Pluto to tip over at least once in its past, and may yet cause it to tip over again in the near future.

If you ever wanted to know how these distant, icy worlds come alive, there’s never been a better way to find out than in the aftermath of what New Horizons taught us!