A study conducted by scientists from the Southwest Research Institute in Colorado has provided more information on ice volcanoes on Pluto. Using images from the New Horizons spacecraft, the researchers focused on an area of features never before seen in the solar system.
Scientists analyzed images of two mounds named Wright Mons and Piccard Monscaptured by New Horizons in July 2015. Although NASA considered them cryovolcanoes at the time, the new study provides more data on their formation.
The Wright Mons is between 4 and 5 km high and Its shape is similar to that of the Mauna Loa volcano in Hawaii.. It has an extension of 150 km and at the top it has a crater with a depth equal to or greater than the height of the mountain.
The flanks of Wright Mons and much of the surrounding terrain, including nearby skyscrapers, exhibit a wavy/bumpy texture that ranges in wavelength/scale from a few kilometers to about 20 km wide.
Large-scale cryovolcanic resurgence on Pluto. Singer, KN, White, OL, Schmitt, B.
This elevation may have formed by condensation and sublimation of thick methane deposits. For its part, the Piccard Mons has a height of 7 km and an extension of nearly 250 km. The crater has a conical shape and its depth is almost 5 km.
ice volcanoes are located southwest of Sputnik Planitia, a 1,000 kilometer long ice plain. This plain is part of the heart-shaped region that appears in the iconic color photograph of the dwarf planet.
Pluto’s cryovolcanoes are young, geologically speaking
The area where the mounds are located is unique on Pluto and throughout the solar system. According to Kelsi Singer, a planetary scientist at Colorado’s Southwest Research Institute, the region is geologically relatively young because there are no impact craters.
According to calculations, would be between 1 and 2 billion years old, although there are some areas with less than 200 million years. The study mentions that the bulky structures, potentially rich in water ice, formed on the surface of Pluto in the latter part of its history.
Cryovolcanoes would have ejected more solid liquid or ice capable of flowing. The scientist indicates that the liquid would have a muddy consistency, similar to tomato sauce. the nitrogen ice it can sink or viscously relax on a relatively short time scale on the dwarf planet.
The geological features of the region are morphologically different from any other recorded on the planet or solar system. The discovery surprises scientists, because forming these mounds requires more internal heat than they thought that Pluto had.
Cryovolcanism on the planet was originally documented based on studies by the Voyager probes to the moons Enceladus (Saturn) and Triton (Neptune). Current research concludes that the region analyzed originated from cryovolcanic processes of a type and scale so far unique to Pluto.