Published: Sat, May 26, 2018
Research | By Raquel Erickson

SwRI scientists introduce cosmochemical model for Pluto formation

SwRI scientists introduce cosmochemical model for Pluto formation

According to the now accepted model, planets are formed by the gradual accretion of smaller objects - and Pluto, situated right next to the Kuiper Belt asteroid field, has always been thought to have formed the same way.

Glein and Waite aren't claiming to have nailed down Pluto's origin definitively; a "photo voltaic mannequin", through which the dwarf planet coalesced from chilly ices with a chemical composition nearer to that of the solar, additionally stays in play, the duo mentioned. Methane is shown in purple, nitrogen in yellow, carbon monoxide in green, and water ice in blue.

The scientists additionally made some inferences concerning the dwarf planet's evolution of their new research, which was revealed on-line Wednesday (Could 23) within the journal Icarus.

Rosetta's mission resulted in September 2016, when the probe's handlers steered it to an intentional crash-landing on 67P's floor.

Is Pluto a giant comet?

"We found an intriguing consistency between the estimated amount of nitrogen inside the glacier and the amount that would be expected if Pluto was formed by the agglomeration of roughly a billion comets or other Kuiper Belt objects similar in chemical composition to 67P, the comet explored by Rosetta".

Astrophysicists have a new theory about the nature of the distant planet Pluto can be a huge comet.


The institute reported that scientists are also looking at a "solar model" for Pluto's formation, theorizing it may have been created from very cold ices that would have had a chemical composition that more closely matches that of the Sun.

Southwest Research Institute scientists integrated NASA's New Horizons discoveries with data from ESA's Rosetta mission to develop a new theory about how Pluto may have formed at the edge of our solar system.

Significantly, the scientists likewise needed to describe the evident absence of carbon monoxide gas on Pluto as it exists in proportion to nitrogen (i.e., why the ratio of N2 to CO appears out of whack). But the researchers' explanation for the missing carbon dioxide is that it was either destroyed by liquid water or it's potentially trapped under Pluto's surface.

The core of this model is a glacier present on the surface of Pluto which contains high levels of nitrogen.

In the new "giant comet" cosmochemical model, Pluto's initial chemical makeup is inherited from comet building blocks but was later changed by liquid water.

The researchers say many questions remain unanswered.

The research is based on data from two separate missions, NASA's New Horizons and the Rosetta mission run by the European Space Agency. "This leads to a new appreciation of the richness of Pluto's 'life story, ' which we are only starting to grasp", he added.

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