In new research conducted by NASA, there are appears to be oceans tucked under the icy surface of objects located at the edge of our solar system. These oceans may be capable to sustain liquid water for a longer time than scientists originally thought.
The objects that exist beyond Neptune’s orbit are supposed to be too cold to have liquid water at their surface. The temperature in those distant worlds can drop more than 350 degrees below zero Fahrenheit. However, new evidence suggests that a liquid water layer is located under the icy surface. NASA’s new research suggests that the heat which was created by the gravitational pull of moons, which was formed in large collisions, could suffice in extending the lifespan of the liquid oceans located under the surface.
According to the research, distant objects, called Trans-Neptunian Objects (TNOs) could be considered locations that could support life.
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“These objects need to be considered as potential reservoirs of water and life,” said Prabal Saxena of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt Maryland in NASA’s statement. “If our study is correct, we now may have more places in our solar system that possess some of the critical elements for extraterrestrial life.”
NASA suggests that there are likely a lot of these worlds that contain elements for extraterrestrial life. Pluto and its natural satellites are Trans-Neptunian Objects. Light which reflects from TNOs has unveiled the potential presence of crystalline water, ice and ammonia hydrates.
Scientists believe that these substances came to the surface with cryovolcanism and have brought up the components from the liquid water trapped under the icy surface. These oceans could have existed for billions of years, and the elements could become more stable and no longer release heat. That being said, the interior of the ocean would gradually gets colder, meaning that the subsurface ocean will freeze.
However, according to NASA, gravitational forces could extend the life of the oceans enabling them to keep their liquid state. When large objects emerge in a collision, moons can be formed if material is cast into orbit surrounding the larger object and creates its own gravity.
“We found that tidal heating can be a tipping point that may have preserved oceans of liquid water beneath the surface of large TNOs like Pluto and Eris to the present day,” said Wade Henning of NASA Goddard and the University of Maryland, College Park.
“Crucially our study also suggests that tidal heating could make deeply buried oceans more accessible to future observations by moving them closer to the surface,” said Joe Renaud of George Mason University, Fairfax Virginia. “If you have a liquid water layer, the additional heat from tidal heating would cause the next adjacent layer of ice to melt.”