What is a dwarf planet?

Could life exist on a dwarf planet?

Three things are necessary for life: liquid water, a source of energy, and organic molecules, that is to say molecules containing carbon.

More than 100 miles (161 kilometers) below Pluto’s surface, a massive ocean of liquid water may exist; this could also be true for other Kuiper Belt worlds. Ceres also has groundwater, remnants of what may have been an ancient world ocean.

Organic molecules, abundant throughout our solar system, have been found on Ceres and Pluto.

But the one missing ingredient for all dwarf planets is a power source.

Sunlight won’t work, especially for Kuiper Belt Dwarfs; they are simply too far from the Sun. To reach the belt, the light must travel more than 2.7 billion miles (4.4 billion km). By the time the sun arrives on these distant worlds, it is too weak to heat any of them significantly.

And all dwarf planets are too small to hold the internal heat left over from the formation of the solar system.

Yet scientists have discovered life on Earth in the most hostile places imaginable – near the bottom of the ocean, miles deep in the ground, and even inside an active volcano. When it comes to life in our solar system, never say never.


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Vahe Peroomian, Professor of Physics and Astronomy, USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences

This article is republished from The conversation under Creative Commons license. Read it original article.

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