Kuiper belt surprise: Eris and Makemake could be warmer than we thought

The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) has made an unexpected discovery. Signs of geothermal activity have been detected on the distant Kuiper Belt dwarf planets Eris and Makemake.

Eris and Makemake were once thought to have ancient, cold surfaces, but it has now been discovered that they are more dynamic than expected. This surprising discovery came from observations by the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), which revealed more about the composition of its surface. Dr. Sharing his surprise, Grain said: “There are interesting signs of warmth in cold places.” The researchers found methane on the surfaces of Eris and Makemake, but it was not the same as the methane found on comets. The methane discovered has characteristics that indicate a warm and possibly hot geochemistry, emanating from the rock’s core. The Kuiper Belt, once thought to be frozen, is now active. These dwarf planets, comparable in size to Pluto and its moon Charon, were previously thought to be frozen remnants of the early solar system, but recent observations by JWST cast doubt on this assumption. The telescope measured the ratio of deuterium to hydrogen in methane, providing clues to the origin, geological history, and formation routes of these compounds. This unexpected discovery suggests that the methane is coming from the rocky inner core of Erith and Makemake, suggesting geothermal or metamorphic processes. This research has deep implications. Scientists have long suspected that icy worlds like Saturn’s Enceladus and Jupiter’s Europa have underground oceans, where liquid water is key to determining their habitability. Eris and Makemake join the list of objects with possible internal heat, encouraging further research into the possibility of liquid water beneath the icy surface. This groundbreaking discovery changes a fundamental principle of planetary science and disproves the long-held theory that there is no internal heat in cold, icy worlds. The model also suggests the possible presence of geothermal gas on Saturn’s moon Titan, expanding our understanding of the implications of these discoveries. In the frozen vastness of the Kuiper belt, Ellis and Makemake reveal to us surprising secrets and prove that secrets await us even in the most remote corners of the solar system. The possibility that warm hearts exist within these distant dwarf planets opens new possibilities for understanding the dynamics of our cosmic neighbor, and perhaps the discovery of extraterrestrial life in the most unexpected of places. We can even know the possibility that a body exists.

source: https://www.swri.org/press-release/swri-scientists-find-evidence-of-geothermal-activity-within-icy-dwarf-planets