Pluto’s Ice Volcanoes Hint at Possibility of Life

Apr 1, 2022

Where there is water there is life, scientists like to say. New photos of Pluto show there are "ice volcanoes" on the dwarf planet. The new discovery means there might be primitive life on the planet.

The pictures were taken in 2015. They show a lumpy landscape. That hints at relatively recent activity by the ice volcanoes. They might even be able to still erupt. The ice volcanoes emit “thicker, slushy icy-water mix ... ,” said a co-author of a study of the Pluto images.

If the volcanoes on Pluto can still erupt, that could mean the water beneath them could be warm enough for life.

Scientists have long thought that some form of life might exist in waters under frozen oceans in our own solar system. One possible location is Europa. That's one of Jupiter's moons. It likely has more water than the Earth’s oceans. Another possibility is Saturn’s Enceladus. In 2005, scientists took pictures of its geysers. The photos showed them spewing frozen water from cracks on the moon.

The discovery of potentially active ice volcanoes on Pluto could undercut a long-held scientific belief that the dwarf planet didn’t have enough internal heat to produce them. Scientists, though, say conditions on Pluto would make it hard for life to survive there. Pluto is nearly four billion miles away from the sun. Average temperatures there are -387 degrees Fahrenheit.

Photo from Reuters.

Scientists were surprised by the discovery of possibly active volcanoes on Pluto because _______. (Common Core RI.5.3; RI.6.3)
a. it’s only a dwarf planet
b. they didn’t think it could produce enough internal heat
c. they thought it was too far away from the sun
d. they thought volcanoes could exist only on Earth
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