NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft is expected to help scientists find evidence of an old ocean on Pluto’s moon, Charon, once it visits Pluto in July 2015. Scientists will be able to determine whether or not the surface of Charon is cracked, which will help them to figure out if the moon did indeed have a sub-surface ocean in the past.
There is a gravitational tug-of war between moons of planets like Jupiter and Saturn, NASA said. Parent planets have a gravitational pull and this is the reason moons like Europa, Enceladus and even Charon are kept in a slight elliptical orbit with the planets. Due to this gravitational pull, the eccentric tides raise on the surface of the moons. This tidal flexing plays a key role in keeping their interiors warm and ensures existence of underground water in liquid form.
Scientists are eager to support their theory that Charon had liquid oceans in the past with further research. Cracks on the surface of the moon are very essential for the study as it has the potential of revealing details about these supposed ancient oceans.
“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.
Rhoden added in a news release that the comparisons between New Horizons observations of Charon and the various predictions will be determining factors of what fits best and discovering the chances of Charon having a subsurface in its past.
Liquid water is a basic necessity for life; the right mixture of chemical and energy source is essentially required by biological organisms to survive.
NASA’s New Horizons Spacecraft to Help Find Evidence Of Old Ocean On Pluto’s Moon