Underground oceans on Earth and Pluto’s moon?

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

underground ocean image
The Earth’s ocean may once have bubbled up from deep below its surface.

The ocean, which covers over 70 percent of our planet, is home to many mysteries. Even its origin has long baffled scientists, since it may have come from icy comets striking Earth or from deep beneath the crust. Now, there’s new evidence of vast underground seas inside our planet and Pluto’s moon, Charon.

A team of researchers recently measured Earth’s seismic waves, vibrations related to earthquakes, volcanoes, or explosions, and found they slowed down after reaching a layer of blue rock called ringwoodite. This meant that the waves were moving through both water and rock over 400 miles below the surface, where the temperature happens to be perfect for the life-giving liquid to “sweat” from the ringwoodite.

Although this experiment only found evidence of ringwoodite beneath the Continental USA (the 48 states in the land area between Canada and Mexico, excluding Hawaii and Alaska), scientists are hopeful that they can find signs of ringwoodite elsewhere.

Meanwhile, on the edge of our Solar System, evidence of another underground ocean may be found in Charon, the largest moon that orbits the dwarf planet Pluto. NASA’s New Horizons mission will reach Pluto and its moons in 2015, where the spacecraft will examine a huge crack in the icy surface of Charon. Other frosty moons with cracks have subsurface oceans, like Jupiter’s Europa and Saturn’s Enceladus. However, Charon is unlikely to currently have an environment capable of supporting liquid oceans today.

Featured image courtesy of NASA. Image of underground water courtesy of keamata on Flickr.