NASA's New Horizons mission continues to reveal the secrets of the dwarf planet. The images and geological composition obtained by the probe show ice volcanoes of relatively recent age. Like the Earth's volcanoes, it is possible that these cryovulcans are once again active after a period of inaction. Pluto's internal heat also raises the question of the possibility of life on the planet.
", said CNN Kelsey Singer, senior researcher at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, and co-author of the new study. "They formed like mountains, but there is no caldera on top [Gigant Vulcan Crater], and they have large boogers all over the surface."
New Horizons was the first spacecraft to fly past Pluto in July 2015 to notice on the icy plain two large kriovulkanes: Mount Wright and Mount Piccard. The observed area covers an ancient impact basin with a diameter of 1,000 kilometres, and it is worth noting that Mount Wright Mons is similar to the volume of Mount Loa's volcano in Hawaii, one of the largest rocky volcanoes on the planet.
How could such volcanoes be formed? Liquid water under Pluto's surface could turn into ice when it reached the freezing temperature of its surface?", Singer added. Instead of the eruption of this type of volcano, the volcano explods "kash" from ice and water. In some cases, the material flow also formed massive dome and a "hubist" area in the region.
In addition, researchers noted that the New Horizons probe returned images and composite data showing that Pluto had a different age ranged from relatively old and highly cratered areas to very young surfaces with little or no craters, in which case ice volcanoes were observed, indicating that they had been active only recently, and that the internal heat of Pluto must be higher than expected to ensure such geological activity.
According to Singer, the cryovulcans formed in "a few episodes" and were probably active 100-200 million years ago, which is very little for geological history.The existence of these volcanoes can also support the hypothesis that liquid water is very close to the surface of a dwarf planet.
Since the New Horizons team was only able to observe the area for 24 hours, it is possible that the ice volcanoes are still active. "," Singer continues.
Due to the unexpected internal heat of Pluto, the existence of life on the planet is also in question. "," the researcher notes.