Buildup of frozen deposits could have carved dwarf planet’s iconic landscape
NASA, JHUAPL, SWRI
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).
Sputnik Planitia sits in a cold zone, a prime location for ice to build up, planetary