Pluto: ‘Recent’ volcanism raises puzzle — how can such a cold body power eruptions?

What is the News?

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s(NASA) New Horizons probe has reported new findings of Pluto.

The probe reported that icy lava flows have recently (no more than a billion years ago) covered substantial tracts of its surface. The findings drew particular attention to a mountainous feature named Wright Mons.

What is Wright Mons?

Wright Mons is a mountainous feature found on Pluto. It was informally named by the New Horizons team in honour of the Wright brothers.

It is about 150 km across its base and has a central depression (a hole) 40-50 km wide, with a floor at least as low as the surrounding terrain.

Scientists claim that Wright Mons is a volcano and cite the lack of impact craters as evidence that it is not likely to be older than 1-2 billion years.

The volume of Wright Mons exceeds 20 thousand cubic kilometres. Although considerably less than the volume of Mars’s biggest volcanoes, this is similar to the total volume of Hawaii’s Mauna Loa, and much greater than the volume of its above sea-level portion.

The slopes of Wright Mons and much of its surroundings are seen to be crowded with hummocks (humps or ridges in an ice field).

These hummocks were likely created by some sort of ice volcanism, known by the technical term “cryovolcanism” – erupting icy water rather than molten rock.

Source: This post is based on an article “Pluto: ‘Recent’ volcanism raises puzzle — how can such a cold body power eruptions?” published in Down To Earth on 1st April 2022.

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