Have complex molecules been found on Pluto’s surface?

Artist's conception of New Horizons during its flyby of Pluto in 2015. Credit:Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute (JHUAPL/SwRI)

First there was the recent story about evidence for a possible subsurface ocean on Pluto, of all places. Now there is a new report regarding evidence for complex molecules on its surface, from scientists at Southwest Research Institute and Nebraska Wesleyan University. Little enigmatic Pluto is starting to get even more interesting…

See Universe Today for the full article.

Does Pluto have a hidden ocean?

Artist's conception of New Horizons passing Pluto and its moons. Credit: Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute (JHUAPL/SwRI)

In recent years, it has become surprisingly apparent that, contrary to previous belief, Earth is not the only place in the solar system with liquid water. Jupiter’s moon Europa, and possibly others, are now thought to have a deep ocean below the icy crust and even subsurface lakes within the crust itself, between the ocean below and the surface. Saturn’s moon Titan may also have a subsurface ocean of ammonia-enriched water in addition to its surface lakes and seas of liquid methane. Then of course there is another Saturnian moon, Enceladus, which seems to not only have liquid water below its surface, but huge geysers of water vapour and ice particles erupting from long fissures at its south pole, which have been sampled directly by the Cassini spacecraft. Even some asteroids may have liquid water layers beneath their surfaces. There is also still a chance that Mars might have subsurface aquifers.

But now there is another contender which at first thought might seem to be the most unlikely place to find water – Pluto…

See Universe Today for the full article.

Another moon for Pluto!

Pluto may have been demoted from full planetary status (now classified as a dwarf planet), but the tiny icy world has now been found to have a fourth moon, discovered by the Hubble Space Telescope on June 28, 2011 and temporarily named P4. Even Mercury is larger than Pluto, yet has no known moon, and neither does Venus, which is almost the same size as Earth. But little Pluto has at least four that we know of! The image below shows all four moons around Pluto (Charon, Hydra, Nix and P4):

Credit: NASA, ESA, and M. Showalter (SETI Institute)

Even with Hubble, the moons are not much more than pinpoints of light, but hopefully the New Horizons spacecraft will get a closer look when it arrives at Pluto in 2015…


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