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Pluto might be the coldest planet in our solar system (well, if it was still a planet!). Despite that, scientists have believed for a while that there is likely a liquid ocean underneath its “Heart,” a large region of nitrogen ice nicknamed for its unique shape.
But if Pluto is so cold, how could there still be liquid water? New research out of Japan has a possible explanation: gas hydrates.
Gas hydrates are a solid composed of water and gas (kind of like ice, but made of mostly methane). If these super-tiny particles exist on Pluto, they may be acting as an insulator (like in a cooler), keeping the underground ocean liquid and the nitrogen surface ice frozen!
Why is this all important? Well, if this research is proven true, it could mean other worlds in our solar system – even closer than Pluto – might have liquid oceans underground, too. And that means there could also be life!
Interested in more space stories like this one? Experience our all-live planetarium show, “Wonders of the Night Sky,” every day in our Jennifer Chalsty Planetarium, the biggest planetarium in the Western Hemisphere. A portion is always set aside for LSC Space News Now stories.