Life on Pluto, once thought to be virtually impossible, is now being discussed – possibly for the first time after a new model has come forward suggesting the planetoid may have vast liquid oceans beneath the surface ice heated by something scientists hadn’t thought of before. And even if life doesn’t become part of the final equation on Pluto, the very concept of a radiation heated world is enough to give a second look at what we once thought we knew about life on other worlds.
The worlds themselves may not be quite what we expected them to be, but this is yet another example where the number of potential worlds that could host some form of life has increased rather than decreasing. And so the question will become will we see this number continue to rise? Few are at this point suggesting that Pluto could be a place where intelligent life could have developed. In fact, at the moment only a small number are suggesting even this much is likely. Instead, we are faced with a simulation that suggests that liquid water, generally described as one of the key primary components to life as we know it exists. And the radiation itself, which releases heat and energy could become its own source of energy making the requirement of a sun far different than it once was – assuming life could find some way to survive harsher more radioactive environments. Pluto may have been given the cold shoulder, but it still holds a great deal of promise thanks to the possibility of liquid water beneath its surface.
And the theory of a liquid ocean on Pluto is not from a direct observation, but rather from a simulation based on observations suggesting it must have a liquid core beneath the icy shell. The reason for this is the size of its poles – which should be far flatter and wider than they are. The spherical shape of Pluto suggests that something may be going on beneath the surface of the recently downgraded planetoid to suggest the inside of it might be spinning around far faster than the outside. Radioactive substances deep within the core could be heating this liquid ocean, and allow for the water to stay liquid. Of course this also means the water within the planet’s core might be incredibly dangerous for humans.
Of course these questions and theories will be addressed in 2015 when the New Horizons Spacecraft will be arriving in orbit around Pluto. What will they discover when they look at what lies beneath the surface on this incredibly surprising and increasingly controversial planet? And will this be the vindication necessary to upgrade the planetoid back up to planet status? Likely no, it seems, but fans of Pluto will nonetheless be able to use this as further reasoning on their ongoing campaign for this planet furthest from the sun.