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Underground ocean found on Pluto, likely slushy with ice

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Scientists have found evidence that tiny, distant Pluto harbors a hidden ocean beneath the frozen surface of its heart-shaped central plain containing as much water as all of Earth’s seas.

The finding, reported on Wednesday in two research papers published in the journal Nature, adds Pluto to a growing list of worlds in the solar system beyond Earth believed to have underground oceans, some of which potentially could be habitats for life.

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Pluto’s ocean, which is likely slushy with ice, lies 93 to 124 miles (150 to 200 km) beneath the dwarf planet’s icy surface and is about 62 miles (100 km) deep, planetary scientist Francis Nimmo of the University of California, Santa Cruz said in an interview.

With its ocean covered by so much ice, Pluto is not a prime candidate for life, added Massachusetts Institute of Technology planetary scientist Richard Binzel, another of the researchers. But Binzel added that “one is careful to never say the word impossible.”

Liquid water is considered one of the essential ingredients for life.

The discovery was made through an analysis of images and data collected by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, which flew past Pluto and its entourage of moons in July 2015.

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“It shows that nature is more creative than we are able to imagine, which is why we go and explore,” Binzel said. “We see what nature is capable of doing.”

Despite being about 40 times farther from the sun than Earth, Pluto has enough radioactive heat left over from its formation 4.6 billion years ago to keep water liquid.

“Pluto has enough rock that there’s quite a lot of heat being generated, and an ice shell a few hundred kilometers thick is quite a good insulator,” Nimmo said. “So a deep subsurface ocean is not too surprising, especially if the ocean contains ammonia, which acts like an antifreeze.”

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Scientists made the discovery as they were trying to figure out why a 621-mile (1,000-km) wide impact basin known as Sputnik Planitia, which contains the curious heart-shaped region, was located in its present position near Pluto’s equator.

Computer models showed the basin likely filled with ice, which caused Pluto to roll over, cracking its crust. That could happen only if Pluto possessed a subsurface ocean, the analysis found.

New Horizons is on its way to another frozen world in the Kuiper Belt region of the solar system about 1 billion miles (1.6 billion km) past Pluto. A flyby of the object, known as 2014 MU69, is scheduled on Jan. 1, 2019.

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(Reporting by Irene Klotz; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Will Dunham)

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… then let us make a small request. Like you, we here at Raw Story believe in the power of progressive journalism — and we’re investing in investigative reporting as other publications give it the ax. Raw Story readers power David Cay Johnston’s DCReport, which we've expanded to keep watch in Washington. We’ve exposed billionaire tax evasion and uncovered White House efforts to poison our water. We’ve revealed financial scams that prey on veterans, and efforts to harm workers exploited by abusive bosses. We’ve launched a weekly podcast, “We’ve Got Issues,” focused on issues, not tweets. Unlike other news sites, we’ve decided to make our original content free. But we need your support to do what we do.

Raw Story is independent. You won’t find mainstream media bias here. We’re not part of a conglomerate, or a project of venture capital bros. From unflinching coverage of racism, to revealing efforts to erode our rights, Raw Story will continue to expose hypocrisy and harm. Unhinged from corporate overlords, we fight to ensure no one is forgotten.

We need your support to keep producing quality journalism and deepen our investigative reporting. Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Invest with us in the future. Make a one-time contribution to Raw Story Investigates, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you.



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Donald Trump and the Jews: He’s exactly why most of us vote for Democrats

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If President Trump doesn't understand why a large majority of American Jews are Democrats, maybe he should take a look in the mirror.

In case you need a quick refresher, Trump sparked an enormous furor on Tuesday when he said, "I think any Jewish people that vote for a Democrat, I think it shows either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty." He added that "five years ago, the concept of even talking about this . . . of cutting off aid to Israel because of two people that hate Israel and hate Jewish people — I can't believe we're even having this conversation. Where has the Democratic Party gone? Where have they gone where they're defending these two people over the State of Israel?"

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Still-free Epstein friend Ghislaine Maxwell likely cooperating with prosecutors: Vanity Fair columnist

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High-powered wealth manager Jeffrey Epstein may have committed suicide — but the case looking into his alleged involvement in trafficking and raping teenage girls is far from over. One particular loose end is Ghislaine Maxwell, a British socialite who was close friends with Epstein — and who is accused of helping to groom Epstein's victims, and who has seemingly disappeared.

As Vanity Fair contributor William Cohen told MSNBC's Alex Witt, Maxwell is likely not really on the lam at all — she may be helping prosecutors in secret, to lull Epstein's other co-conspirators into a false sense of security.

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Wall Street Journal drops a truth-bomb on Trump over his market-destroying trade war: ‘Everyone loses’

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In yet another blast from the editorial board of the Wall Street Journal, the editors looked back at Friday's stock market free fall and pointed the finger directly at President Donald Trump and his "trade-war general" Peter Navarro for being the main culprits.

After Friday's disastrous stock market session that took a major downturn due to the escalation of the trade war -- with China and Trump ordering billions of dollars in new tariffs -- the Journal pointed out that there will be no winners.

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