The surface age of sputnik planum, pluto, must be less than 10 million years

David E. Trilling

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Data from the New Horizons mission to Pluto show no craters on Sputnik Planum down to the detection limit (2 km for low resolution data, 625 m for high resolution data). The number of small Kuiper Belt Objects that should be impacting Pluto is known to some degree from various astronomical surveys. We combine these geological and telescopic observations to make an order of magnitude estimate that the surface age of Sputnik Planum must be less than 10 million years. This maximum surface age is surprisingly young and implies that this area of Pluto must be undergoing active resurfacing, presumably through some cryo-geophysical process. We discuss three possible resurfacing mechanisms and the implications of each one for Pluto's physical properties.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0147386
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • General


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