In school, children had to memorise that there are nine planets in our solar system. However, for the past 16 years, geography teachers have had to teach that our solar system now has eight planets orbiting (revolving) around the sun rather than nine. Pluto was mainly composed of rock and ice, and it was the smallest planet before its omission.
For more than one and a half decades, Pluto was not part of the solar system. Therefore, only eight planets remained. Astronomers removed Pluto from the list of planets.
Scientists spot Pluto after 16 years
But after a gap of about 16 years, the new invention by astronomers revealed that Pluto still has the power to pull us back into the mysteries it’s hiding on the surface.
A new study now suggests that mysterious volcanoes of ice are being spotted on the surface, the likes of which are not seen anywhere else in the solar system.
Astronomers detect large domes
Led by astronomers from the New Horizons mission, the team has detected a region of large domes and rises flanked by hills, mounds, and depressions formed by material expelled from below the surface of this distant, icy planet.
The creation of this terrain requires multiple eruption sites and a large volume of material that consists of multiple, several-km-high domes, some of which merge to form more complex platforms.
The New Horizons mission imaged a region dominated by two large mounds known as Wright Mons and Piccard Mon, which are now believed to be cry volcanoes.
Pluto is still alive
Led by Dr. Kelsi Singer, New Horizons Deputy Project Scientist from the Southwest Research Institute, the team analyzed the geomorphology and composition of an area located southwest of Pluto’s bright, icy “heart,” Sputnik Planitia.
This cry volcanic region contains multiple large domes, ranging from 1 to 7 kilometres tall and 30 to 100 or more kilometres across, that sometimes merge to form more complex structures.
At least so far, the particular structures we studied are unique to Pluto. Rather than erosion or other geologic processes, cry volcanic activity appears to have extruded large amounts of material onto Pluto’s exterior and resurfaced an entire region of the hemisphere that New Horizons saw up close, “Singer said in a statement.
Because these are young geologic terrains and large amounts of material were required to create them, it is possible that Pluto’s interior structure retained heat into the relatively recent past, enabling water-ice-rich materials to be deposited onto the surface. Other geologic processes considered to create the features are unlikely, according to the team.
One of the benefits of exploring new places in the solar system is that we find things we weren’t expecting. “These giant, strange-looking cry volcanoes observed by New Horizons are a great example of how we are expanding our knowledge of volcanic processes and geologic activity on icy worlds,” Singer added.
The New Horizons mission was launched by Nasa in 2006, the same year Pluto was downgraded to dwarf status. It remains the sole spacecraft to explore Pluto and its moons after reaching the icy planet in 2015. The spacecraft has been exploring objects in the Kuiper Belt, a region of the solar system that extends from about 30 AU, near the orbit of Neptune, to about 50 AU from the Sun.
Once again, it seems that Pluto may be included as the ninth planet, and it would be part of our solar system.