90 Miles From Tyranny : NASA Says Pluto's MOON CRACKS must be PROBED for mystery ocean

Monday, June 16, 2014

NASA Says Pluto's MOON CRACKS must be PROBED for mystery ocean

Pluto and all its moons lie in a bitterly cold environment,
Mosaic of pics from the Cassini spacecraft show cracked surface of Saturn's moon Enceladus. Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute
orbiting the Sun more than 29 times farther out than Earth does. The surface temperature on the one-time planet (now characterised as an a "dwarf planet") is about minus 229˚C (-380˚F), far too frigid to allow any liquid water.


Charon is in the same icy environment as its brothers, but the inside of the moon could be a different story and NASA scientists are hoping that the agency’s New Horizons spacecraft, which will be the first to visit Pluto and Charon in July next year, will show them if they’re right.

"Our model predicts different fracture patterns on the surface of Charon depending on the thickness of its surface ice, the structure of the moon's interior and how easily it deforms, and how its orbit evolved," said Alyssa Rhoden of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Centre.

"By comparing the actual New Horizons observations of Charon to the various predictions, we can see what fits best and discover if Charon could have had a subsurface ocean in its past, driven by high eccentricity."

The cracked surfaces of both Jupiter’s moon Europa and Saturn’s moon Enceladus are evidence of oceanic interiors – a similar pattern at Charon could show the same thing.
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