Pluto May Be an Agglomeration of a Billion Comets

Pluto Might Be A Huge Comet According To A Recent Study

Now, a new study into the formation of the planet suggests that Pluto is actually the result of a collision between one billion comets.

Fun fact: Pluto's Heart is northeast of the Cthulhu Macula, a whale-shaped region named for H.P. Lovecraft's infamous Elder God Cthulhu, partly because Pluto played such a big role in Lovecraft's stories. The scarcity of prehistoric carbon monoxide gas, the scientists assume, is since it's buried deep in Pluto's surface area ices, or it was ruined when liquid water existed on the surface area. The research is described in a paper published online today in Icarus.

Glein said the nitrogen-rich ice detected in Sputnik Planitia, a large glacier that forms the smooth left-hand side of Pluto's "heart", provided a key clue.

The authors also wanted to find out how much nitrogen may have leaked out into space over time from Pluto's atmosphere, which according to Science Alert is made up of 98 percent nitrogen.

According to Cristopher Glein, the huge amounts of nitrogen found inside Sputnik Planitia leads to the theory that Pluto was formed by an agglomeration of about a billion comets and other space rocks from the Kuiper Belt.

"This research builds upon the fantastic successes of the New Horizons and Rosetta missions to expand our understanding of the origin and evolution of Pluto", said Glein.

Scientists from the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) combined data from NASA's New Horizons flyby of the former planet and the European Space Agency's Rosetta mission that landed on comet 67P to come up with a new explanation for how Pluto came to be. Inning accordance with this alternate theory, Pluto formed from extremely cold ices with chemical structures that more carefully matches that of the Sun.

The solar model for Pluto's formation hasn't yet been completely ruled out, however.

"Our research suggests that Pluto's initial chemical makeup, inherited from cometary building blocks, was chemically modified by liquid water, perhaps even in a subsurface ocean", Glein pointed out. Possible processes to explain "missing CO" that are given quantitative support here are fractional crystallization from the atmosphere resulting in CO burial at the surface, and aqueous destruction reactions of CO subject to metastable thermodynamic equilibrium in the subsurface. However, the solar model also satisfies some constraints.

The researchers say many questions remain unanswered. "New Horizons offered an unmatched and advanced view of Pluto, however it just scratched the surface", he stated.

The leaders of the study believe that with the help of chemistry as a detective tool, we can understand the formation of Pluto since its beginning. "This results in a brand new appreciation of the richness of Pluto's 'life story, ' which we're exclusively beginning to grasp".

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