The recently studied data from the probe “New Horizons” made researchers excited

On April 20, 2022, employees of the NASA Astrophysical Laboratory in Texas published the results of a study of data obtained in 2015 from NASA’s New Horizons probe on Pluto. It turned out that there are cryovolcanoes on the planet, which was considered a “white wasteland” with no signs of life. What is this – evidence of the existence of alien life forms or a calculation error?

Where did Voyager go?

In 1989, Voyager 2 recorded cryovolcanic activity on Triton, Pluto’s twin. Cryovolcanoes are volcanoes “just the opposite”, that is, instead of molten rock, they spew out water, ammonia and methane. Under certain conditions, they can be the cause of the formation of the “primordial soup” from which the protein molecules are derived.

Voyager is a space probe. Photo © Wikipedia

The researchers then noted that the presence of cryovolcanic activity makes it necessary to reconsider much of what was considered constant up to that moment. And in that case, there may be life on Pluto. But to confirm this, a new mission was required.

Image from Voyager

On August 25, 1989, Voyager 2 visited the Triton satellite and took pictures and measured. It turned out that there is a very rare atmosphere, and a methane gim hangs above the surface. Then humanity first heard of cryovolcanoes. Volcanism is generally a rare phenomenon and is not typical of any large bodies in the solar system. They are rich, for example, on Saturn’s satellite Enceladus, as well as Jupiter’s satellite Io.

Jupiter's big red spot.  Photo taken

Jupiter’s big red spot. The photo was taken by Voyager 1. Photo © Wikipedia

“Voyager-2” left a powerful lag for the future: on Triton’s ice sheet, the probe saw 50 elongated dark spots, which turned out to be nitrogen clouds that struck from the mouth of the “ice volcano”. Because they were 8 km high, they gradually stretched almost 20 times. Intrigued researchers became seriously interested in the phenomenon. Only a detailed study of Pluto could at least clarify anything. But they did not have the opportunity to advance in this area for 40 years, until they launched New Horizons.

Photos on the “New Horizons” device

In January 2006, the automatic interplanetary station (AMS) “New Horizons”, whose purpose was to study Pluto, was successfully launched into the far part of the solar system. It is worth noting that the Atlas-5 rocket, in whose cover the device was located, was equipped with Russian RD-180 engines. Thanks to this, it was New Horizons that had the highest launch speed in human history and was able to reach the darkest areas of outer space.

Pluto's surface: mountains and plains are visible.  Photo © Wikipedia

Pluto’s surface: mountains and plains are visible. Photo © Wikipedia

In 2015, almost 10 years after its launch, the New Horizons Pluto spacecraft approached and took detailed images of its surface using the LORRI high-resolution camera, as well as recorded data from the Ralph IR spectrometer, VBSDC’s cosmic dust detector and solar energy. wind analyzer SWAP. But compiling data proved difficult – researchers worked on their decoding for seven long years.

In April 2022, researchers at the Southwestern Research Institute in Texas published the results of a seven-year study – and a terrible scandal broke out in the research community. If we believe the scientists’ conclusions, volcanic processes take place not only on Earth, Io, Enceladus and Triton, but also on Pluto, which was previously considered an “icy wasteland”, too cold for life and has not, unlike Triton, even a hint of the existence of some life forms. Say, there is no “hydrocarbon-ammonia-water life-giving broth” there. But not all researchers were ready to accept this.

Latest information from Voyager

An illustration of spacecraft leaving the solar system.  Photo © Wikipedia

An illustration of spacecraft leaving the solar system. Photo © Wikipedia

NASA researchers admit that the level of intrigue in 2022 has increased significantly. Either Voyager data was not well studied, or the equipment on New Horizons provides distorted information. Either science really knew nothing about Pluto and the old paradigm is bursting at the seams.

Now astrophysicists are interested in the main features of the planet – giant domes above the surface of Pluto, whose height is 7 km, and its width reaches 100 km. It is possible that this is the upper part of the “factories” for the production of primitive life forms. In addition, since the 70’s, the relief of Pluto has changed a lot, new craters have formed. There is clearly something going on.

Why is Pluto not considered a planet?

It is possible that the interior of Pluto can hide many interesting things, but huge funds are needed for the new mission. It was noted that, despite the technical developments at the time, Voyagers had a more powerful data collection system, and the transfer of information to Earth was performed more efficiently.

Photo taken by Pluto

Photograph of Pluto taken by New Horizons. Photo © Wikipedia

But now you can not ask Voyagers – they are too far away. Voyager 2 is now at 107 astronomical units (average distance to the sun. – Note. Life) from Earth and will soon leave the solar system forever. In 2030, the legendary probes will switch to beacon mode, and in 2036 they will send the last signal to Earth.

Sunset on Pluto showing layers of atmospheric haze.  Photo © Wikipedia

Sunset on Pluto showing layers of atmospheric haze. Photo © Wikipedia

New Horizons is now at about 50 AU. from Earth, their “space odyssey” in the active phase will continue until 2026, after which the unit will continue its space journey, as Voyagers continue. By the way, in September 2017, the International Astronomical Union officially named one of the sectors on Pluto the Voyager region.

“New Horizons” just before launch. Photo © Wikipedia

Will researchers be able to contact New Horizons again?

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