After Pluto lost its planetary status, researchers are now exploring its formation and how it ended up at the edge of our Solar System. They used data both from NASA and ESA missions and came up with a theory claiming Pluto is actually a giant comet model.
Is Pluto a giant comet?
Pluto is one of the most controversial cosmic objects in our Solar System. After being regarded as a planet for so many decades, researchers decided it didn’t quite fit the description and its features didn’t allow it to sit next to the other planets. However, it still constituted an interesting object of study.
As a result, NASA’s New Horizons mission went to explore Pluto and to collect valuable data on it. After combining this information with comet data from ESA’s Rosetta mission, researchers could build a model for Pluto. What resulted was what they called the giant comet model.
The core of this model is a glacier present on the surface of Pluto which contains high levels of nitrogen. This is quite interesting, since Rosetta’s information showed similarities between Pluto and some comets. Therefore, the mini planet looks as if it were formed by a billion comets from the Kuiper Belt.
By identifying chemical features, we can find out how planets have formed
Now, researchers need to explore this giant comet model. Apart from detecting nitrogen on Pluto’s surface, they also need to understand how much of it could have leaked out in space. By comparing the results with the low levels of carbon monoxide, researchers realized Pluto was influenced by liquid water. More precisely, this giant comet model was greatly affected by water.
This study is remarkable because it starts from some basic chemical observations and identifies the formation process that took place billions of years ago. The fact that Pluto resembles a giant comet is amazing, but it also shows how little we knew about this cosmic body. If you want to read more on the subject, the study was also published online.
Image source: Wikipedia