New Horizons Reveals Photos of Pluto’s Moon Charon

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NASA’s New Horizons showed up the highest resolution images of Pluto’s main moon, Charon (which I just learned no one is sure how to pronounce? “Sh”sound if you’re Stephen Colbert and James Christy, “K” sound for dictionaries and some others). Ross Beyer, affiliate of the New Horizons Geology, Geophysics and Imaging (GCI) team, says he couldn’t be “more delighted with what we see.”

The feature on NASA’s website said the image revealed “a surprisingly complex and violent history” and I’m not going to lie, I’m a bit disappointed that there were no mentions of intergalactic space wars and mecha-suits. That being said, there’s still some pretty cool stuff here.

Before the image, scientists estimated that Charon’s surface would be “monotonous, crater-battered world” but they found the “landscape covered with mountains, canyons, landslides, surface-color variations and more.” The canyon on Charon is more than 1,000 miles (4X the length of the Grand Canyon) and suggest “a titanic geological upheaval in Charon’s past.” John Spencer, deputy lead for CGI in Boulder, Colorado compares it to the canyons on Mars.

The plains south of the Charon’s canyon, “informally referred to as Vulcan Planum” are also an object of interest as they might indicate “wide-scale resurfacing,” possibly as a result of “cold volcanic activity, called cryovolcanism”. Paul Schenk, a New Horisons team member, explains this as “the possibility that an internal water ocean could have frozen long ago, and the resulting volume change could have led to Charon cracking open, allowing water-based lavas to reach the surface at the time.”

What do you think of Charon?

(via NASA)

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