Is There Life on Pluto?

by Fraser Cain on May 15, 2008


Pluto is extremely far from the Sun. So far away that temperatures on Pluto dip down to 33 K, or -240 degrees C. Not only does water freeze solid on Pluto, but even other liquids and gases, like methane will freeze solid when Pluto is at its most distant.

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From this point of view, there’s no way life could survive on the surface of Pluto. It’s just too cold, and so little sunlight gets to the dwarf planet, that nothing could survive.

However, in the distant future, our Sun will expand into a red giant, increasing the amount of energy it gives off for millions of years. It would expand in size, consuming the inner planets (including the Earth), and the habitable zone will move to the outer Solar System.

There will come a day, billions of years in the future, when Sun is 100 times its current size, and putting out 1000 times as much energy. At that point, many objects in the Kuiper Belt will become downright pleasant.

It’s unlikely that life would have time to evolve on Pluto from scratch. Instead, we would probably have to transport it there from Earth (assuming we’re still around).

About 

Fraser Cain is the publisher of Universe Today. He's also the co-host of Astronomy Cast with Dr. Pamela Gay.

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