Ice gave Pluto a heavy heart | Science News

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Ice gave Pluto a heavy heart

Buildup of frozen deposits could have carved dwarf planet’s iconic landscape

By
1:00pm, November 30, 2016
Sputnik Planitia

FEELING DOWN  A basin on Pluto named Sputnik Planitia (at right in this image from New Horizons) might be a depression formed by the weight of a massive ice cap, a new study suggests.

Pluto’s heart might carry a heavy burden.

Weight from massive deposits of frozen nitrogen, methane and carbon monoxide, built up billions of years ago, could have carved out the left half of the dwarf planet’s heart-shaped landscape, researchers report online November 30 in Nature.

The roughly 1,000-kilometer-wide frozen basin dubbed Sputnik Planitia was on display when the New Horizons spacecraft tore past in July 2015 (SN: 12/26/15, p. 16). Previous studies have proposed that the region could be a scar left by an impact with interplanetary debris (SN: 12/12/15, p. 10).

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