Pluto may have ice volcanoes

NASA/JPL-JHU/SWRINASA/JPL-JHU/SWRI
NASA/JPL-JHU/SWRI

NASA/JPL-JHU/SWRI

Two possible volcanoes have been identified on Pluto. If they are indeed volcanoes, they would likely spew a mixture of “water, nitrogen, ammonia or methane.”

Jonathan Amos via BBC:

Two possible ice volcanoes have been identified on the surface of Pluto.

They are seen in images returned from the New Horizons probe, which flew past the distant dwarf planet in July.

The mountains are several km high and tens of km across, and each has what appears to be a depression in the top.

Unlike Earth volcanoes that spew molten rock, Pluto’s volcanoes – if that is what they are – would likely erupt an icy slush of substances such as water, nitrogen, ammonia or methane.

The suggestion was raised at the 47th annual meeting of the American Astronomical Society’s Division for Planetary Sciences, where the mission team is presenting over 50 research reports from the flyby.

The scientists still need to do further work to confirm their volcano idea.

What would help in particular is information on the composition of the materials making up the local terrain.

“If we can constrain the compositions of these features then we’d have something to work with, with respect to modelling how this particular ice would behave if it were to be erupted volcanically, and what sort of relief it might be able to sustain,” said Dr Oliver White from the US space agency (Nasa).

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