Pluto isn't a planet, but is it a comet?

Pluto may have formed from 1 billion comets

The new study analyzed Pluto's chemical composition and uncovered a number of similarities between the dwarf planet and comet 67P, the famous "snowstorm" comet made popular on Twitter last month. Scientists still don't know all that much about the dwarf planet's life, but this new research is a big step in the right direction.

A team of researchers from the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) merged all the data on Pluto from NASA's New Horizons mission and the ESA's Rosetta mission that crashed on the Comet 67P to discover a new interpretation of how Pluto has formed.

Based on the observations, scientists have developed the "giant comet" cosmochemical model of Pluto formation.

"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", Glein explains.

In addition to the comet model, the researchers also investigated a model whereby Pluto formed from very cold ices with chemical compositions similar to that of the Sun. The researchers involved said that although there are numerous question marks about the formation of the body Pluto, yet it is likely that it has been formed of billions of early comets. What resulted was what they called the giant comet model.

According to the now accepted model, planets are formed by the gradual accretion of smaller objects - and Pluto, situated right next to the Kuiper Belt asteroid field, has always been thought to have formed the same way.

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Scientists needed to understand not only the nitrogen present at Pluto now - in its atmosphere and in glaciers - but also how much of the volatile element potentially could have leaked out of the atmosphere and into space over the eons.

The researchers further suggest that the presence of liquid water may have altered the planet over time, even going so far as to propose that the planet may have had a subsurface ocean. The scarcity of prehistoric carbon monoxide gas, the scientists assume, is since it's buried deep in Pluto's surface area ices, or it was ruined when liquid water existed on the surface area.

Just 15 minutes after its closest approach to Pluto on July 14, 2015, NASA's New Horizons spacecraft looked back toward the sun and captured a near-sunset view of the rugged, icy mountains and flat ice plains extending to Pluto's horizon.

"Using chemistry as a detective's tool, we are able to trace certain features we see on Pluto today to formation processes from long ago", he added.

The data to compare Pluto's make up with that of a comet came from the ESA's Rosetta mission, notes the report. "This results in a brand new appreciation of the richness of Pluto's 'life story, ' which we're exclusively beginning to grasp".