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Subsurface liquid water may have existed on Pluto’s moon Charon

Researchers believe Pluto’s moon Charon may have been warm enough at one point in time to sustain an underground ocean of liquid water.

Artist’s concept of Charon seen from Pluto. (Credit: Supportstorm/Wikimedia Commons)

The surface temperature on this icy world is estimated to be nearly three hundred degrees Fahrenheit below zero. But a new NASA-funded study posits that, if the surface of Charon is cracked, the interior of the giant moon may have been warm enough to have maintained a subterranean ocean of liquid water.

As The Weather Network reports, “NASA says that an oval-shaped orbit could have, at one point, generated large tides and friction that may have produced enough heat to support an ocean of liquid water.

Evidence indicates that Saturn’s moon Enceladus and Jupiter’s moon Europa currently have subterranean oceans. Liquid water is of particular interest to astrobiologists searching for extraterrestrial life. NASA explains, “Since liquid water is a necessary ingredient for known forms of life, the oceans of Europa and Enceladus are considered to be places where extraterrestrial life might be found.”

Surface of Enceladus. (Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute)
Surface of Enceladus. (Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute)

It is unlikely that an ocean still exists inside Charon. But if the moon’s history included liquid water, it is possible that life once called Charon home. NASA will get a better look at this moon in July 2015 when the New Horizons spacecraft arrives in the Pluto system.

New Horizons
Illustration of the New Horizons spacecraft. (Credit: Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute)

Jason McClellan

Jason McClellan is a UFO journalist and the producer/co-host of the web series Spacing Out! He is also the web content manager and staff writer for OpenMinds.tv, and a co-organizer and technical producer of the International UFO Congress. As a founding member of Open Minds, Jason served as a writer and editor for the now defunct Open Minds magazine. He has appeared on Syfy, NatGeo, and, most recently, he co-starred on H2's Hangar 1: The UFO Files. ------ Follow Jason on Twitter @acecentric and subscribe to Jason's updates on Facebook.

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