Scientists make guess about origins of Pluto’s nitrogen sea

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Garbage in, garbage out: Scientists have written a computer model that supposedly tells them how Pluto’s thick heart-shaped glacier packed ocean of nitrogen and carbon monoxide formed.

[T]o find out how the glaciers formed in the first place, scientists created models that simulated atmospheric circulation on the dwarf planet for the last 50,000 years (a mere 200 orbits around the sun for Pluto). At the beginning of the simulations, the researchers gave Pluto a planet-wide veneer of nitrogen, carbon monoxide, and methane ices a few millimeters thick; then, the planet’s surface and atmosphere evolved as the icy orb passed through orbit after orbit. If Pluto were a completely smooth sphere, it would have either a permanent swath of nitrogen ice at the equator or seasonal snow caps at its poles. But that’s not what the planet looks like today. When researchers added realistic topography to the model, including the 4-kilometer-deep Sputnik Planum and two other large craters, the basin gradually trapped Pluto’s nitrogen, carbon monoxide, and much of its methane, the researchers report online today in Nature.

While the computer model here can help planetary scientists better understand how Pluto might have evolved, to use it to draw any conclusions about Pluto’s geological history is absurd. Scientist have no idea what Pluto was like 50,000 years ago. Heck, we don’t even know what half the planet looks like now.

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