Pluto’s crust could have alien life living underneath it, according to Brian Cox.
The dwarf planet’s surface is made up of a crust, which includes huge icy mountains, that is very unlikely to have anything living on it. But underneath that could be warm oceans, which might be able to support life, the physicist has said.
The New Horizons probe flew past Pluto last month, snapping photos and other readings as it went. It has sent back some of those photos — showing the dwarf planet in more detail than ever before — but will continue to do so in the coming weeks.
Cox said that the information sent back had already given hope that the planet might be able to support life.
The probe “showed you that there may well 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,” Cox told The Times.
There’s still much more to do to fully understand the planet. Scientists have only seen 5 per cent of the information taken by the probe, and it will start sending back more information from next weekend.
That will tell us much more about the dwarf planet, adding to our already hugely-improved understanding of it. But it probably won’t be able to tell us whether there’s warm water there — instead, the best bet is looking on similar planets that are nearer.
Scientists have already discovered similar findings on the moons of Jupiter and Saturn, which are much easier to get to. And delving further into the details of what is happening on those moons might tell us more about Pluto.
But Cox warned against getting too excited about finding other living things in our own galaxy.
“What science is telling us now is that complex life is probably rare,” he told The Times. “We’re physically insignificant and yet probably very valuable.”
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies