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Expanding Pluto

25 June 2016

We have an expanding universe, the possibility of an expanding earth, and expanding planets in deep space – and now we have the possibility that Pluto is expanding. That sounds a bit crazy as it is not all that big – but scientists have noticed signs of stress on Pluto's surface that might mean there is internal pressure cracking the crust as a result of expansion. At www.slate.com/blogs/bad_astronomy/2016/06/23/evidence_suggests_pluto_may… … Phil Plait, notorious for his dismissal of anything out of the ordinary and not complying with the mainstream narrative, has this story (but so do a lot of other people too). Mind you, as it is published in a recognised journal he doesn't have much choice I suppose, as he is keen to keep up with the schoolmasters and not go against anything they preach. Plait says there are frozen plains of nitrogen on Pluto, and mountains of water ice (quoting NASA feedback from the images beamed back by the New Horizons Mission). The evidence of liquid water comes from cracks known as extensional tectonic features – meaning they are produced when something extends or expands. Is Pluto an example of an expanding planet? Plait doesn't ask this in a free spirit but quotes the study and says imagine covering a balloon with mud, leaving it to dry off into a crust, and then inflating the balloon – and continues by saying that might be happening on Pluto. The crust is actually made of water and nitrogen ice and it is this that is thought to be expanding and cracking – due to liquid water underneath gradually freezing (or that is the hypothesis). This liquid water has been kept liquid by internal heat it is envisaged, assuming nuclear decay is able to create enough heat and keep it locked inside by the icy crust outside. On the other hand Pluto might be expanding for other reasons – or it may not be expanding at all and something else is responsible for the cracks. It is an idea that has been put out there for other scientists to consider. Not a statement of fact.

See also www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-3653945/Does-Pluto-ocean-holds-a… … which has a video and several images to browse through. It also has a little box outside the main piece with the heading 'there may be aliens beneath Pluto's crust' (a teaser to get you to read what is written in the box). It seems that TV science guy Brian Cox said last year there might be a subterranean sea under the Pluto crust of ice (presumably getting this from a NASA scientist) that may be warm enough for organic chemistry to thrive. It seems that subterranean water is becoming fashionable – but has Cox thought this through?

See also http://earthsky.com/space/liquid-water-ocean-under-pluto-ice … where the blogger expresses great surprise etc.

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