We have learned more about Pluto in the last few weeks than we did throughout the whole of 20th century. The farthest planet in our solar system has snowfalls, mile-high mountains made of ice, and a youthful crust that betrays its old age. Could Pluto also be harboring alien life?
According to UK physicist Brian Cox, it is a likely possibility. The professor of particle physics at the University of Manchester and the natural successor of the great David Attenborough, Cox claims that Pluto may contain a subsurface ocean warm enough to host life. He believes the tell-tale ooze of glaciers on Pluto’s surface could point toward the existence of subterranean seas, which according to Cox, could be warm enough to host organic chemistry, and by consequence, life.
Speaking to the Times, Cox said New Horizons has opened up a new world of possibilities about the existence of other life forms on Pluto.
“New Horizons probe showed that there may be a subsurface ocean on Pluto which means – if our understanding of life on Earth is even slightly correct- that you could have living things there.”
The New Horizons spacecraft completed an astounding three billion-mile journey across our solar system and performed a flyby of Pluto in July, capturing detailed images of the dwarf planet’s surface as well as its many moons, including Charon, Styx, Nix, Kerberos, and Hydra. Unfortunately, however, it would be impossible to confirm Cox’s statements in the immediate future, as New Horizons couldn’t possibly tell if Pluto contained warm seas underneath its cold surface. A better place to look for life in the near future would be moons of the planets closer to home, according to the physicist.
“It’s not as accessible, unfortunately, as Europa [a satellite of Jupiter] or some of Saturn’s moons. Titan looks as though it’s got a subsurface ocean now, and Enceladus throws liquid into space, so you can fly through that and see if it’s got organics in it.”
However, though Pluto and some planetary moons may harbor life forms, Cox emphasized that there is no doubt that human beings remain the most complex form of life in our solar system. The biological “bottlenecks” on the way to multi-cellular organisms are extremely difficult to squeeze through, and therefore only a tiny fraction of the planets where life emerges will be home to complex life forms.
Do you think Pluto may be harboring alien life?
[Photo by NASA]