Pluto could be a huge comet in his heart.
Researchers have developed a new theory about the origins of the dwarf planet after scrutinizing Sputnik Planitia, the giant nitrogen ice glacier that represents the left-hand side of Pluto's famous "heart."
"We found a striking correspondence between the estimated amount of nitrogen within the glacier and the amount that would be expected if Pluto were formed by the agglomeration of about one billion comets or other objects of the Kuiper belt with similar chemical composition as 67P Comets explored by Rosetta, "said Chris Glein, a scientist at the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) in San Antonio, in a statement. [Photos of Pluto and Its Moons]
The Rosetta mission of the European Space Agency circled the comet 67P / Churyumov-Gerasimenko from 201
The mothership in orbit also dropped a lander named Philae on the icy body and pulled the first soft touchdown onto a comet surface. (The Kuiper belt is the ring of frigid objects beyond Neptune's orbit; Pluto is the largest inhabitant of the belt.)
Glin and his SwRI colleague Hunter Waite developed the new Pluto Formation scenario after seeing data from Rosetta and NASA's New Horizons mission. which was flown by Pluto in July 2015.
The scientists also made some conclusions about the evolution of the dwarf planet in their new study, which was published online on May 23, in the journal Icarus .
"Our research suggests that Pluto's chemical composition derived from cometary building blocks was chemically modified by liquid water, perhaps even in an underground ocean," Glein said.