Kemo D. (kemo_d7) wrote,
Kemo D.
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Pluto

 The Last Oasis for Life
It might be a few billion years before an ad like this appears in your local paper, but it could show up for good reason.
 
According to a new computer model designed to understand how the conditions for life might arise in unlikely places, humble Pluto and its surroundings will have warmed to downright pleasant temperatures long after the Earth has been consumed by an expanding, dying Sun.
 
"It's Miami Beach for millions of years, potentially longer," Alan Stern, a planetary scientist at the Southwest Research Institute, says of Pluto's future.
 


Stern used existing data on the outer solar system, added in the latest theoretical expectations for the Sun's evolution, and analyzed it all from a biological perspective.
 
The Swelling Sun
Pluto is a cold and almost certainly lifeless world right now, not a place you'd even want to visit on holiday, let alone invest in.
 
But that will change as the solar system ages and the tiny planet basks in a growing solar glow. 

In its senior years, the Sun is expected to swell to 100 times its present size and grow a thousand times more luminous, likely vaporizing Earth and the other inner planets but possibly making the outer solar system a final oasis.
 
The scenario might invigorate a whole swath of the solar system near Pluto, known as the Kuiper Belt, which harbors several round worlds that are a good fraction of Pluto's size, Stern explained in a telephone interview last week.
 
Pluto's surface presently ranges from -400 to -346 degrees Fahrenheit (-240 to -210 degrees Celsius).
 
The small ninth planet and its Kuiper Belt neighbors -- count among these Neptune's largest moon, Triton -- all are thought to contain ample frozen water, which when melted is one of life's essential ingredients. Observations indicate these objects also harbor organic molecules, such as hydrocarbons, that are potential building blocks for life.
 
"You've got all the right conditions in place for something potentially interesting to happen," Stern said. Adding warmth to the fringes of the solar system could create what he calls a Delayed Gratification Habitable Zone (DGHZ).
 
Meanwhile, with humans not even slated for travel to Mars, it's hard to imagine mounting a crewed mission to Pluto, let alone settling down there.
 
But when the time comes -- and if our species is still around as Earth begins to fry -- perhaps Pluto will in fact be hot property, complete with beachfront resorts. Stern said the planet could become "a low-gravity waterworld, with a distended, puffy atmosphere."

Kemo D. (a.k.a. no.7)
 
Tags: astronomy
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