Pluto’s ‘icy heart’ may have not been created by violent impact

Pluto’s ‘icy heart’ may have not been created by violent impact

The left “lobe” of Pluto’s “icy heart” has long been believed to be a massive impact crater that subsequently filled with frozen nitrogen and other types of exotic ices. But, a study published in the journal Nature has suggested that the famous feature may not have been born in violence.

According to the new study, the ice buildup came first and the amassed material ultimately pushed the original landscape down, allowing frozen nitrogen and other exotic ices to fill the opening.

Lead researcher Douglas Hamilton, a professor of astronomy at the University of Maryland, said, “Pluto’s big heart weighs heavily on the small planet, leading inevitably to depression.”

On Earth, Greenland’s enormous ice sheet has done the same. The icy heart’s left lobe is a 600-mile-wide plain called Sputnik Planitia, which was formerly known as Sputnik Planum.

Hamilton explained that nitrogen ice on the dwarf planet weighs more than the bedrock, which is water ice. In case, we lay that much nitrogen on top of the water ice, the ice would make the hole by itself.

Frozen nitrogen, methane and carbon monoxide gave the dwarf planet’s iconic feature its bright look. It was first captured the interest of researchers because of its heart-like shape visible in an image captured and beamed back to Earth by American space agency NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft in July 2015.


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