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Pluto may have had an ocean billions of years ago, according to a new study.

What’s happening:

  • A new study — published in Nature Geoscience — suggests that Pluto might have been warm enough to allow liquid to form on its surface, which means an ocean might exist under the frozen exterior of the planet.
  • Researchers used a thermal model simulation and photo evidence from NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft to discover the findings, according to Fox News.
  • Pluto — assuming it was formed in less than 30,000 years time — likely started out hot enough to create a liquid ocean.
  • Planets formed far away from the sun likely started hot enough to create an ocean, the researchers said.

What’s being said:

  • “For a long time people have thought about the thermal evolution of Pluto and the ability of an ocean to survive to the present day. Now that we have images of Pluto’s surface from NASA’s New Horizons mission, we can compare what we see with the predictions of different thermal evolution models.” — Francis Nimmo, study co-author and professor from University of California Santa Cruz.
  • “If it started cold and the ice melted internally, Pluto would have contracted and we should see compression features on its surface, whereas if it started hot it should have expanded as the ocean froze and we should see extension features on the surface. We see lots of evidence of expansion, but we don’t see any evidence of compression, so the observations are more consistent with Pluto starting with a liquid ocean.” — Carver Bierson, study’s lead author.
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