ANALYSIS: ‘X' Marks the Convective Spot on ‘Lava Lamp' Pluto
Trilling's study, which is in press at PLOS One, mentions three ways the resurfacing could take place:
Nitrogen ice on the surface could be "relaxing" if it is viscous, getting rid of any craters created by meteroids.
Ice on the bottom could be rising up and replacing ice at the top, The ice could be partially melted at its bottom and from time to time, erupt on to the surface as cryo-lava.
As for where the meteorites are coming from, Trilling points out that Pluto is in a zone filled with smaller Kuiper Belt objects. From time to time, these small bodies crash into Pluto. Trilling's math shows that this happens roughly every 10 million years, which would explain why Sputnik Planum appears so young.
PHOTOS: Dive Onto Pluto's High-Resolution Landscape
Trilling's research is mostly focused on near-Earth asteroids, but Pluto caught his attention not only because of the "astounding" images, but also the lack of craters. He's also hopeful that New Horizons will be funded to look at another Kuiper Belt object up close in 2018. If that happens, Trilling will be on the lookout for more "crater-free patches" to nail down more information about the solar system's evolution.