Saturday, May 18, 2024

Pluto’s heart-shaped scar may offer clues to the frozen world’s history

AstronomyPluto's heart-shaped scar may offer clues to the frozen world's history



When NASA’s New Horizons mission flew past Pluto in 2015, it gave humanity our first glimpse of a colossal depression on the isolated world. It’s named Sputnik Planitia. Comparable in size to the country of Mexico and dominating one of Pluto’s hemispheres, Sputnik Planitia is likely the result of an impact — but few impact craters come in Sputnik Planitia’s unique pear-like shape.

How Sputnik Planitia formed remains unknown, but researchers have now painted a possible picture of its origins. It’s possible, they say, that a body about the size of Switzerland crashed into Pluto long ago, at a shallow angle. If true, this picture would also hint at what Pluto’s interior may look like under its cryogenic surface.



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