New Horizons about Pluto
New Horizons is a space probe that has just been passing by Pluto and has taken pictures about the surface of Pluto and its Moon Kharon. The accuracy of the pictures is at best measured in tens of meters. Pluto has lost its status as a genuine planet and is now regarded as dwarf planet in the Kuiper belt - a ring of bodies beyond Neptune. Using Earthly unis its radius, mass (from New Horizons data), and distance from Sun are R=.18RE, M= .0022× ME and d= 40 dE.
Pictures have yielded a lot of surprises. Pluto is not the geologically dead planet it was though to be. The following summarizes what I learned by reading a nice popular article by Markku Hotakainen in finnish weekly journal ("Suomen Kuvalehti") and also represents a TGD based interpretation of the findings.
- Surprisingly, the surface of the Pluto is geologically young: the youngest surface shapes have age about 108 years that is .1 billion years. This is strange since the temperature is about -240 oC at the cold side and it receives from Sun only 1/1000 of the energy received by Earth. Textbook wisdom tells that everything should have been geologically totally frozen for billions of years.
- There is a large champaign in Pluto - one guess is that it has born as an asteroid or comet has collided with the surface of Pluto. The region is now officially called Tombaugh Regio. The reader can Google the reason for this. The flat region does not seem to have any craters so that it should be rather young. The boundary of this lowland area is surrounded by high (up to 3.5 km) mountains. Also these formations seem to be young. Nitrogen, methane and CO-ice cannot form so high formations.
Several explanations have been imagined for the absence of craters: maybe there are active processes destroying the craters very effectively. Maybe there is tectonic activity. This however requires energy source. Radioactivity inside Pluto? Underground oceans liberating heat? Or maybe tidal forces: the motions of Pluto and its moon Kharon are locked and they turn always the same side towards each other. There is a small variation in the distance of Kharon causing tidal forces. Could this libration deform Pluto and force the liberation of heat produced by frictional forces?
- The flat region decomposes to large polygons with diameter of 20-30 km. The mechanism producing the polygons is a mystery. Also their presence tells that the surface is geologically young: at some places only .1 billion years old.
- The atmosphere of Pluto has also yielded a surprise. About 90 per cent of atmosphere (78 per cent at Earth) is nitrogen but it is estimated to leak with a rate of 500 tons per hour since the small gravitational acceleration (6 per cent of that on Earth) cannot prevent the gas molecules from leaking out. How Pluto manages to keep so much nitrogen in its atmosphere?
- Kharon - the largest moon of Pluto - has radius which is half of that for Pluto. Also the surface texture of Kharon exhibits signs about upheavals and has similarities to that in Pluto. Craters seem to be lacking. North Pole has great dark region - maybe crater. Equator is surrounded by precipices with depths of hundreds of meters, maybe up to kilometers. If they are torn away so should have been also the precipices.
- It is known that cosmic expansion does not occur locally. In many-sheeted space-time of TGD this could mean that the space-time sheets of astrophysical objects comove at the the large space-time sheet representing expanding background but do not themselves expand. Another possibility is that they expand in rapid jerks by phase transitions increasing the radius. p-Adic length scale hypothesis suggests that scaling of the radius by two is the simplest possibility.
- If this kind of quantum phase transition occurred for the space-time sheet of Earth about .54 billion years ago it can explain the weird things associated with Cambrian explosion. Suddenly totally new life forms appeared as from nowhere to only disappear soon in fight for survival. Could highly evolved life in underground seas shielded from UV radiation and meteoric bombardment have burst to the surface. The process would have also reduced the value of the gravitational acceleration by factor 1/4 and increased the length of the day by factor 4. The reduction of the surface gravity might have led to emergence of various gigantic lifeforms such as dinosauri, which later lost the evolutionary battle because of their small brains. Climate would have changed dramatically also and the Snowball Earth model is replaced by a new view.
- The surface of Pluto is indeed geologically young: the age is measured in hundreds of millions of years. Could the sudden jerkwise expansion have occurred - not only for Earth but - for objects in some region surrounding Earth and containing also Pluto?
- The polygonal structure could be understood as a ripping of the surface of Pluto in the sudden expansion involving also cooling of magma and its compression (the analogy is what happens to the wet clay as it dries and becomes solid). The lowland region could correspond to the magma burst out from the interior of Pluto being analogous to the magma at the bottom of oceans at Earth. The young geological age of this region would explain the absence of craters. Also the surface texture of Kharon could be understood in the similar manner.
- If the gravitational acceleration was 4 times larger (24 percent of that in Earth) before the explosion, the leakage would have been slower before it. Could this make it easier to understand why Pluto has so much nitrogen? Could the burst of material from the interior have increased the amount of nitrogen in the atmosphere? Geochemist could probably answer these questions.
- A more radical explanation is that primitive life forms have prevented the leakage by binding the nitrogen to organic compounds like methane. If underground oceans indeed existed (and maybe still exist) in Pluto as they seem to exist in Mars, one can wonder whether life has been evolving as an underground phenomenon also in Pluto - as so many nice things in this Universe must do;-). Could these lifeforms have erupted to the surface of Pluto in the sudden expansion from underground seas and could some of them - maybe primitive bacteria - have survived. Nitrogen is essential for life and binds the nitrogen to heavier chemical compounds so that its leakage slows down. Could there exist an analog of nitrogen cycle meaning that underground life bind the nitrogen from the atmosphere of Pluto and slow down its leakage?
For background see the chapter Expanding Earth Model and Pre-Cambrian Evolution of Continents, Climate, and Life of "Genes and Memes".
For a summary of earlier postings see Links to the latest progress in TGD.