The curiosity surrounding Pluto never ends. Recent NASA study has revealed the presence of icy worlds in our outer solar system and that there are high probabilities of presence of water below the icy surface.
The reason behind this revelation is based on the assumption that heat generated by the gravitational pull of the moons may have caused collisions which could have extended the liquid water beneath the icy surface.
“These objects need to be considered as potential reservoirs of water and life,” said Prabal Saxena of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, lead author of the research published in Icarus November 24. “If our study is correct, we now may have more places in our solar system that possess some of the critical elements for extraterrestrial life.”
The team used the equations for tidal heating and calculated its contribution to the “heat budget” for a wide variety of discovered and hypothetical TNO-moon systems, including the Eris-Dysnomia system. Eris is second-largest of the currently known TNOs after Pluto.
“We found that tidal heating can be a tipping point that may have preserved oceans of liquid water beneath the surface of large TNOs like Pluto and Eris to the present day,” said Wade Henning of NASA Goddard and the University of Maryland, College Park, a co-author of the study.
The researchers found that the gravitational interaction with a moon can generate enough heat inside a Trans-Neptunian Object to significantly extend the lifetime of a subsurface ocean.
(With inputs from NASA)