Study points out Pluto is formed of numerous comets

NASA's New Horizons spacecraft looked back toward the sun and captured a near-sunset view of the rugged icy mountains and flat ice plains extending to Pluto's horizon. Credit NASA

Since Pluto was deprived of its planetary status, a persistent issue has remained, namely, what is Pluto, if it is not a planet.

Pluto may not be considered a planet anymore, but astronomers are still trying to figure out how the dwarf planet came into existence in the outer reaches of our solar system. Well, a few scientists consider they've discovered the truth.

At its coronary heart, Pluto could also be a big comet.

It turns out that The Heart may be more than a cool formation-a new study says that it provides evidence that Pluto was formed from around a billion comets.

"We've developed what we call "the giant comet" cosmochemical model of Pluto formation", said Dr Christopher Glein, who led the research. The new theory is detailed in paper available on the arXiv server and is due to be published in the journal Icarus.

The scientists uncovered that the Sputnik Planitia, a nitrogen-rich ice glacier found on Pluto's surface, possesses a composition that resembles the one of the Comet 67P studied by the ESA's Rosetta mission.

Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Credit NAVCAM  ROSETTA  ESA
Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Credit NAVCAM ROSETTA ESA

The levels of nitrogen and frozen carbon monoxide in Sputnik Planitia were a closer match for the cometary model than they were for having Pluto form from cold ices that are similar in composition to solar material. According to researchers at the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) in San Antonio, Texas, the dwarf planet may have been formed from a billion comets, clustering together in the Kuiper Belt. For instance, researchers have long questioned whether comets were the source of the Earth's water or whether they was essential for the shipment of the active ingredients for life. The scarcity of prehistoric carbon monoxide gas, the scientists assume, is since it's buried deep in Pluto's surface area ices, or it was ruined when liquid water existed on the surface area.

The research is based on data from two separate missions, NASA's New Horizons and the Rosetta mission run by the European Space Agency.

Not only that, but the data suggests Pluto - 7.5 billion kilometres from the sun and smaller than our moon - once had an ocean.

The solar model for Pluto's formation hasn't yet been completely ruled out, however.

"Using chemistry as a detective's tool, we are able to trace certain features we see on Pluto today to formation processes from long ago", he added. After that, there were uncountable theories about how Pluto might be just another object from the Kuiper Belt that went rogue.

That object, known as Comet 67P was the target of a 2004 mission where the Rosetta spacecraft launched and then met up with the icy body as it flew around the sun. "This results in a brand new appreciation of the richness of Pluto's 'life story, ' which we're exclusively beginning to grasp".

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