Pluto’s famous “heart,” Sputnik Planitia, has been suggested to be a massive impact basin, but its history and influence on the evolution of Pluto remains unknown. I utilize a combination of hydrocode and finite element modeling to simulation the formation and evolution of Sputnik Planitia over geologic time to see if a subsurface ocean was needed to produce the basin as we see it today. Image via NASA.
Currently, we’re using the iSALE shock physics hydrocode to simulate the formation and evolution of Sputnik Planitia in first hours following impact to test the influence of different ocean thicknesses and thermal structures in Pluto’s ice shell. Image via NASA
Following our iSALE test results, we’ll be simulating the continued evolution of the basin through cooling and viscoelastic relaxation over geologic time using the finite element code Abaqus to determine how Sputnik Planitia might become a positive mass anomaly, or mascon. Image via NASA.