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Pluto likely formed from comets, study reports

New research shows Pluto may have come from cometary building blocks.
By Joseph Scalise | Feb 25, 2019
Pluto may have originated from a mass of small comets, according to a new study published in the journalEarth and Planetary Astrophysics.

This new finding comes from researchers at the Southwest Research Institute, who studied the dwarf planet by analyzing the gigantic nitrogen-ice glacier on its surface known as Sputnik Planitia.

The European Space Agency's Rosetta mission orbited Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko from 2014 through 2016. During that time, it dropped a small lander onto the surface and collected a wealth of information.

After studying such data against details collected from the Pluto flyby mission New Horizons, the team behind the research found evidence that Pluto started out from meteorites. That gives brand new insight into the world's origin.

"We found an intriguing consistency between the estimated amount of nitrogen inside the glacier and the amount that would be expected if Pluto was formed by the agglomeration of roughly a billion comets or other Kuiper Belt objects similar in chemical composition to 67P, the comet explored by Rosetta," explained lead author Chris Glein, a scientist at the Southwest Research Institute, according

Though the team does not claim that they have definitively discovered how the dwarf planet formed, it gives some of the most compelling evidence to date.

They hope to continue their study in the coming months and further monitor the dwarf planet to better understand both its evolution and origins.

"The current paradigm is that bodies in the outer solar system were built by the accretion of rocks and ices," added Glein, according to Popular Science. "We think that comets are leftover building blocks from the formation of larger bodies, and previously, it was suspected that Pluto might have formed from cometary building blocks, but we didn't have the data to really test that. This study is trying to take the next step forward in that process."


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