Pollux volcanos may be rich in organic water

Science

The red ice found on Pluto shows that the dwarf planet recently released a source of water into space. And it refers to the chemical complex – and perhaps organics – under the salty soil of Pluto, the researchers said on May 29 in scientific achievements.

“This is a big surprise for us all in terms of Pluto,” said planetary scientist Dale Kruikshank of the NASA Science Center at Moffet Field, California. “This means there are many surprises found in this part of the solar system.”

Cruikshank and colleagues analyzed the wavelengths of light that could act as signatures of chemical compounds in Pluto’s surface images, which were taken when the New Horizons probe flew past the dwarf planet in July 2015. preview this image. Various ice roofs covered the surface of ice water which made it difficult to paint mountains in the cold temperatures of Pluto.

In the new analysis, the researchers found signs of ammonia in which ice water was exposed. Ammonia is a fragile molecule that can be broken down by ultraviolet and cosmic radiation for only 400,000 to one billion years. “If you find it at all, it shows that it is set up immediately,” said Kruikshank. “As far as I can see in geology, there really is no limit.”

Ammonia-rich ice water gathers around a large gap in the dwarf’s surface called Vergil Fosa, west of the large nucleus of Pluto. This crack is likely to be a gap where once liquid water broke out at Cryovulano, the team reported.

Previous observations showed that Pluto could hide the oceans under its ice sheet (SN Online: 09/23/16). But “there is a big difference between monitoring ocean fluids from various surface properties and seeing oceanic parts actually surface,” said planetary scientist Steven Desch of Arizona State University in Tempe, who was not involved in this new discovery. .

This is the reason for seeing the cryovite effect of Pluto, said Desh. “We have long thought that these [small, cold] planets, including Pluto, must have cryopulkanic activity,” he said. “It’s a mystery, why don’t we see any more signs?”

Ammonia is an excellent antifreeze that can reduce the freezing point of water to 100 degrees Celsius, Desh said. If Pluto’s oceans contain ammonia, this can explain how far water is from the sun.

However, some scientists still expect more evidence of cryo-volcanism. “I like to believe it,” said Mark Neveu, an astrobiologist from NASA’s Space Flight Center, “Goddard” in Greenbelt, Maryland, who was not involved in the study. it’s set. If you can’t get a better picture, scientists can use a combination of New Horizons data and laboratory tests to analyze ammonia and organic compounds in mixtures to understand how these molecules form in space.

There is evidence of Pluto’s outbreak or epidemic – researchers cannot know whether this is a single event or not – the distribution of ammonia ice up to 200 km from the gap said Kruikshank. This means that eruptions blow water into the atmosphere at a speed of about 300 meters per second, where it freezes in the air before returning to the surface through a wide path.

“This will be a violent event,” said Kruikshank, which stands 50 meters from a hot fountain that erupts in Yellowstone National Park in winter. “I was completely covered in frozen ice.

Pluto’s cold observations show another surprise: the red material that makes the Kruikshank crew become complex organic objects. The team looked at Pluto’s organic molecules and thought that molecules would form on the surface or in the atmosphere. This is the first assumption that the underground ocean can also contain organic molecules.

Irradiated ice rich in ammonia and organic substances in the laboratory can produce molecules needed for life, including nucleobases that make up DNA and RNA, said Cruikshank and colleagues in the Astrobiology March journal. This does not mean that Pluto’s life is exhausted, but that could mean that the pioneering chemicals of life can occur in an environment that is surprisingly unfriendly.

“This tells you that you don’t need to be near a star for interesting things to happen,” said NASA Nevee astronomer. “If it happens deep within Pluto, in darkness, with a very cold surface … this lifetime of prebiotic chemistry can happen anywhere.”

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