Recent pictures from NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft show that two icy volcanoes may be located close to the south pole of Pluto. However these volcanoes appear to be suspicious and they are going to be under the scanner, says Jeff Moore, a planetary scientist at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California.
You have been forewarned. NASA says that they do not have ample evidence about the presence of volcanoes on Pluto and would refrain from making any such announcement.
The New Horizons team spotted possible volcanoes when putting together a topographic map of Pluto. The map shows the deep depressions and elevations on the surface of Pluto and does so in three dimensions. The two mountains, Piccard and Wright are broad, being a minimum of 160 kilometers wide, and have large craters at the top.These dips look similar to the volcanoes on Earth where the top of the volcano slopes after the lava flows out.
Cryovolcanoes have been spotted on Neptune’s moon Triton and more frozen celestial objects. Contradictory to hot lava on Earth’s volcanoes, these cryovolcanoes are fueled by ice.
Moore is heading the New Horizons geology team and gave a speech on 9 November at the American Astronomical Society’s Division for Planetary Sciences meeting in National Harbor, Maryland.
Robert Pappalardo, a planetary scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California says that if scientists get sure shot news about the presence of cryovolcanoes on Pluto, it clearly means that volatile ices coating may flow at the top and even underneath.
However these cryovolcanoes would need ample heat to send slush from the depths of Pluto to seep through the frozen surface. There is still less information about the internal heat on Pluto to predict whether the planetoid could sustain cryovolcanoes.