Oceans in the solar system could hold liquid water for longer



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In a new investigation carried out by NASA, it seems that there are oceans hidden under the icy surface of objects located at the edge of our solar system. These oceans may be able to hold liquid water for longer than scientists originally thought.

  Solar System Liquid Water
nymixArt / Pixabay

It is badumed that the objects that exist beyond the orbit of Neptune are too cold to have liquid water on its surface. The temperature in those distant worlds can fall more than 350 degrees below zero Fahrenheit. However, new evidence suggests that a layer of liquid water lies beneath the icy surface. NASA's new research suggests that the heat created by the gravitational attraction of the moons, which formed in large collisions, could be enough to extend the useful life of liquid oceans located beneath the surface.

According to the research, distant objects, called transneptunian objects (TNO) could be considered places that could sustain life.

"These objects should be considered as possible reservoirs of water and life," said Prabal Saxena of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt Maryland at the NASA statement. "If our study is correct, we can now have more places in our solar system that possess some of the critical elements for extraterrestrial life."

NASA suggests that there are likely to be many of these worlds that contain elements for extraterrestrial life. Pluto and its natural satellites are trans-Neptunian objects. The light reflected in the TNO has revealed the potential presence of crystalline water, ice and ammonia hydrates.

Scientists believe that these substances came to the surface with cryo-flux and removed the components of the liquid water trapped under the icy surface. These oceans could have existed for billions of years, and the elements could become more stable and no longer release heat. That said, the interior of the ocean will gradually cool down, which means that the subsurface ocean will freeze.

However, according to NASA, gravitational forces could extend the life of the oceans by allowing them to maintain their liquid state. When large objects emerge in a collision, moons can form if the material launches into orbit around the larger object and creates its own gravity.

"We found that tidal warming can be a turning point that may have preserved the oceans of liquid water beneath the surface of large TNOs like Pluto and Eris to this day," said Wade Henning of NASA Goddard and the University of Maryland, College Park.

"Crucially, our study also suggests that tidal heating could make buried oceans more accessible for future observations by moving them closer to the surface," said Joe Renaud of George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia. "If you have a layer of liquid water, the additional heat from the heating of the tides would cause the next adjacent layer of ice to melt."

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