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Pluto's Moon Once Had An Underground Ocean, Study Suggests

Update Date: Jun 16, 2014 09:09 AM EDT

The analysis of the fractures in the icy surface of Pluto's giant moon Charon suggests that if its interior was warm, it could maintain a subterranean ocean of liquid water. 

Pluto orbits the sun more than 29 times farther than Earth. Presently, its surface temperatures are estimated to be about 380 degree below zero Fahrenheit making it extremely unsuitable for holding liquid water on its surface. The moons of the planet are also in the same frigid environment. 

Pluto is relatively less read planet due to its remoteness and small size. In the July of 2015, NASA's New Horizons spacecraft is going to be the first to visit it and its moons. 

"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 Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, in the press release.

"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." 

Rhoden is lead author of a paper on this research now available online in the journal Icarus.

Some moons around the gas giant planets in the outer solar system have cracked surfaces with evidence for ocean interiors - Jupiter's moon Europa and Saturn's moon Enceladus are two examples, the press release added.

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