Pluto’s famous heart-shaped feature may well have migrated over the course of millions of years as the dwarf planet spun, and that would add to the evidence for a slushy ocean hidden beneath the ice, two groups of scientists say.
In separate reports published today by the journal Nature, the scientists say a reorientation of the faraway world’s most famous feature would provide the best explanation for phenomena observed during last year’s flyby of NASA’s New Horizons probe – including patterns of cracks in the ice.
Most tellingly, it would explain why the heart-shaped feature, known informally as Tombaugh Regio, lines up almost precisely opposite Pluto’s biggest moon, Charon.
“We asked, ‘What’s the chance of that randomly happening?’ And it’s less than 5 percent that it would be so perfectly opposite,” MIT Professor Richard Binzel, a co-author of one of the reports, said in a news release. “And then the question becomes, what was it that caused the alignment?”