Surprising New Discovery Hints at Existence of Alien Life on Pluto

While examining photographs of Pluto's surface acquired by NASA's New Horizons mission, a team of astronomers has uncovered an intriguing discovery.

Pluto's cold volcanic area from above. Pluto's surface and atmospheric hazes are shown in greyscale, with a blue overlay representing an imaginative conception of how former volcanic processes may have behaved. Credit: NASA/Applied Physics Laboratory of Johns Hopkins University/Southwest Research Institute/Isaac Herrera/Kelsi Singer

“We found a field of very large icy volcanoes that look nothing like anything else we have seen in the solar system,” Kelsi Singer, senior research scientist at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, and author of a new study published in the journal Nature Communications, told CNN.

The discovery demonstrates that the small planet still has lots of surprises in store for us — and maybe more habitable than previously assumed.

The region spans 621 kilometers and is bounded on three sides by an old impact basin. Two of its greatest volcanic domes are about the size of Earth-based volcanoes, including Hawaii's Mauna Loa, the world's largest by volume.

Due to the absence of fresh impact craters in the vicinity, the researchers hypothesize that the gigantic ice volcanoes are not that ancient and developed as a consequence of leftover heat originating from the small planet's core.

“This means Pluto has more internal heat than we thought it would, which means we don’t fully understand how planetary bodies work,” Singer told CNN.

Rather than exploding spectacularly with lava, these ice volcanoes spew a slurry of ice and water, "comparable to toothpaste," she noted.

It's a fascinating finding that adds to current beliefs about Pluto's large underground ocean, which scientists claim exists. Volcanoes may provide proof that liquid water is more accessible to the surface than previously believed.

This might possibly have an effect on the planet's capacity to support life — which makes Pluto even more interesting.

“There are still a lot of challenges for any organisms trying to survive there,” Singer told CNN. “They would still need some source of continual nutrients, and if the volcanism is episodic and thus the heat and water availability is variable, that is sometimes tough for organisms as well.”

The team is now excited to send a spacecraft outfitted with radar to examine “what the volcanic plumbing looks like,” as Singer put it.

Reference(s): Peer-Reviewed Research Paper, CNN

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