Ancient Ocean May Have Existed on Pluto's Moon Charon

Ancient Ocean May Have Existed on Pluto's Moon Charon

Charon

NASA's New Horizons probe will investigate evidence for an underground ocean on Charon.

While Charon's surface temperature is -380 Fahrenheit, a subsurface ocean may have existed in the past, say scientists. When the probe flies past Pluto in July 2015, they will be looking for cracks in Charon's surface, which may hint at the ancient ocean.

"Our model predicts different fracture patterns on the surface of Charon depending on the thickness of its surface ice, the structure of the moon's interior and how easily it deforms, and how its orbit evolved," Alyssa Rhoden of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center said Friday in a NASA news release. "By comparing the actual New Horizons observations of Charon to the various predictions, we can see what fits best and discover if Charon could have had a subsurface ocean in its past, driven by high eccentricity."

Moons undergo deformation as they orbit their respective planet due to the tidal forces they experience. This "flexing" warms a moon's interior, and the question is whether this warming on Charon, Jupiter's moon Europa, and Saturn's moon Enceladus is enough to maintain a liquid underground ocean. Today, Charon is tidally locked with Pluto an no longer experiences the flexing forces, so any ocean that may have existed would have frozen over.

A paper on this research is available online in the journal Icarus.

If Charon once had a liquid ocean, the possibility then exists that it also supported life - and that that life left behind fossils. Do you think we'll ever find evidence for extraterrestrial life anywhere in our solar system?

Source: NBC News

Permalink

R.I.P. Pluto. You'll always be a planet to me. :(

Does this mean they've admitted that it's a planet again? Because the Fungi from Yuggoth was starting to complain.

You know, back when the universe was still cooking, I'm sure there were lots of oceans of stuff. Not all of it was water, but it was certainly an ocean. Other planets in our own backyard have things like liquid methane in large quantities. This neither proves nor disproves the existence of life, but it does put a crimp on their being life right there...unless Lovecraft was right.

FalloutJack:
Does this mean they've admitted that it's a planet again? Because the Fungi from Yuggoth was starting to complain.

Heh...can almost imagine Lovecraft writing about Mi-Go going round bugging astronomers about this.

...

A quibble, but the article might want to specify that it means oceans of liquid water. I'd assumed some other substance that was liquid at much lower temperature (which would be much less impressive) but I checked and the source says water.

thaluikhain:

FalloutJack:
Does this mean they've admitted that it's a planet again? Because the Fungi from Yuggoth was starting to complain.

Heh...can almost imagine Lovecraft writing about Mi-Go going round bugging astronomers about this.

...

A quibble, but the article might want to specify that it means oceans of liquid water. I'd assumed some other substance that was liquid at much lower temperature (which would be much less impressive) but I checked and the source says water.

I couldn't tell to be honest. Being a european and all, I've no idea how to read Fahrenheit so I just assumed it was water all along since its usually what people gush about in these cases. :P

OT: Give the temperature in celsius as well next time please.

Halyah:
OT: Give the temperature in celsius as well next time please.

Oh, yeah, that's a good point. SI measurements are just better.

Except imperial system for height of people and when something misses something by a large and vague amount.

EDIT: Er, Celsius instead of Kelvin, though, even though, strictly speaking, Kelvin is the SI unit.

NASA Bastards-

Pretending like they still care about Pluto and everything.

IF YOU CARED YOU'D STILL CALL IT A PLANET DAMMIT! /RAGE!

thaluikhain:

Halyah:
OT: Give the temperature in celsius as well next time please.

Oh, yeah, that's a good point. SI measurements are just better.

Except imperial system for height of people and when something misses something by a large and vague amount.

EDIT: Er, Celsius instead of Kelvin, though, even though, strictly speaking, Kelvin is the SI unit.

Celsius and kelvin is pretty interchangable. The only difference is what they count as Zero degrees IIRC. That said I grew up in a nation where SI measurements are the only thing used for just about anything. So seeing imperial system and stuff like fahrenheit makes me slightly disappointed due to not being able to understand it.

Halyah:
Celsius and kelvin is pretty interchangable. The only difference is what they count as Zero degrees IIRC. That said I grew up in a nation where SI measurements are the only thing used for just about anything. So seeing imperial system and stuff like fahrenheit makes me slightly disappointed due to not being able to understand it.

Oh sure, just that Celsius has a much more convenient zero degrees for everyday use, nobody is going to use Kelvin for how warm next tuesday is going to be.

In Australia, everyone uses SI units for real measurement, but Imperial units are still used for vague measurements, and people's height.

thaluikhain:

Halyah:
Celsius and kelvin is pretty interchangable. The only difference is what they count as Zero degrees IIRC. That said I grew up in a nation where SI measurements are the only thing used for just about anything. So seeing imperial system and stuff like fahrenheit makes me slightly disappointed due to not being able to understand it.

Oh sure, just that Celsius has a much more convenient zero degrees for everyday use, nobody is going to use Kelvin for how warm next tuesday is going to be.

In Australia, everyone uses SI units for real measurement, but Imperial units are still used for vague measurements, and people's height.

I wouldn't use kelvin for ordinary use either for that reason. Plus I grew up with it so. We don't use imperial units for anything here. We prefer SI and metrics.

Maybe we can thaw it to uncover the Mass Relay inside it.

there probably is life somewhere out there, the universe is too mind-bendingly vast not to contain other forms of life, but they may not be in forms we can recognize or even communicate with. the other problem is that, given that our galaxy on its own is still mind-bendingly vast, popular fiction has to rely on things like the mass relays to justify us being able to feasibly travel around the galaxy. and even mass effect concedes that only about 2% of the star systems have actually been explored by the races of the citadel, many of whom have been knocking about space for millennia before humankind and will likely do so for millennia afterwards. the distances are too vast.

Astalano:
R.I.P. Pluto. You'll always be a planet to me. :(

Squilookle:
NASA Bastards-

Pretending like they still care about Pluto and everything.

IF YOU CARED YOU'D STILL CALL IT A PLANET DAMMIT! /RAGE!

For all you "Pluto is planet" plonkers:

 

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