New Horizons, NASA’s spacecraft that visited Pluto in 2015, captured images that suggested the planet may have ice volcanoes. Analysis of the data has shown that these structures, which may reach over 4 kilometers in height, are in fact a significant aspect of the dwarf planet, according to recent findings.
The only difference between an ice volcano and a “regular” one is that an ice volcano spews ice instead of lava. Data from the New Horizons spacecraft suggests that they may exist on Pluto as well as Saturn’s moon Enceladus and also the dwarf planet Ceres. According to a study article in the journal Nature Communications, ice volcanoes do occur on the dwarf planet, and to an extent that no one had previously imagined.
There should be liquid water wherever there are cryovolcanoes. Warmth is also necessary for water to exist as a liquid. Earlier studies claimed that Pluto’s surface is almost completely devoid of heat, but the current discoveries call into question that assumption. Many theories have been floated, but one possibility is that Pluto possesses an insulating layer that may retain some heat, allowing it to build up to greater temperatures over time.
New Horizons, which flew by Pluto on July 14, 2015 at a speed of 52,000 mph (84,000 km/h), provided all the data the scientists needed to conduct their investigation. In order to better understand how these formations developed, Singer’s team sought to amass as much data as possible regarding their sizes, forms, and compositions.
A 650-mile-wide (1,050-km) ice-covered collision crater to the southwest of Sputnik Planitia drew the attention of the researchers.. The Wright and Piccard mounds may be seen here, along with another significant mound called Piccard Mons, both named for 20th-century scientist and balloonist Auguste Piccard. Per the study, these and other structures in this region were formed by cryovolcanism and are mostly composed of water ice.