Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The forces that formed Pluto's heart may not be romantic, but the feature was love at first sight for scientists

The heart-shaped feature is called the Tombaugh Regio and is located slightly north of Pluto’s equator. The dwarf planet's brightest feature, researchers couldn’t help but spot it soon after New Horizons began its flyby in July. They quickly realized that at least part of the heart consists of an icy, frozen plain studded with mysterious moving hills formed by glaciers and flowing ice—a hint that geological activity is still going on beneath Pluto’s chilly surface. In a new paper in the journal Nature, researchers revealed how Pluto may have gotten those glaciers. They used atmospheric models to go back in time, recreating the last 50,000 years of the dwarf planet's evolution. Researchers hypothesized that there was some kind of underground source that spewed out its primarily nitrogen-based ice—likely fueled by a massive underground ocean. But when they played out a simulation of how the dwarf planet must have evolved, they found something quite different. Read more


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