The Solar System's Newest Beach Spot Is an Icy One

Illustration for article titled The Solar System's Newest Beach Spot Is an Icy One

One ticket to Pluto, please! Seems there's an ocean there just waiting to be discovered, surfed or lounged about. Don't worry about my well-being though—I'll be packing a sweater.

Scientists with more know-how of how the Universe works than do I conclude this slushy sea could exist in spite of Pluto's frosty -230 degree Celsius temps because of the dwarf planet's internal heat.

Now Guillaume Robuchon and Francis Nimmo at the University of California, Santa Cruz, say there is a good chance it does. They calculate that an ocean depends on two things: the amount of radioactive potassium in Pluto's rocky core, and the sloshiness of the ice that covers it.

Density measurements suggest a rocky core fills 40 per cent of the dwarf planet's volume. If the core contains potassium at a concentration of 75 parts per billion, its decay could produce enough heat to melt some of the overlying ice, which is made of a mixture of nitrogen and water.


Ergo, surf's up, dude! [New Scientist, Image]

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-230C, perfect temperature to play ice hockey.