New Images of Charon

Stunning new images of Pluto’s closest moon, Charon, have returned from the New Horizons spacecraft launched by NASA on January 19, 2006. You may recall last month when NASA released images from New Horizon’s historic flyby of Pluto. This is the first time that NASA scientists have gotten a look at Charon. The high-resolution images reveal a belt of fractures and canyons just north of the moon’s equator. These canyons can be up to four-times as long and twice as deep as the Grand Canyon in some places. This can indicate a titanic geological upheaval in Charon’s past, according to NASA. “It looks like the entire crust of Charon has been split open,” said John Spencer of the Southwest Research Institute. When we go to the south of the fracture, we see that the terrain becomes relatively crater-poor, indicating that there has been a recent remodeling of the surface there. This implies that there is some kind of internal heat source on Charon, just as it appears to be on Pluto. Scientists do not yet know where the source of this heat could be coming from, and will undoubtedly be the subject of intense speculation.

Photo by NASA
Photo by NASA

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