OCT 01, 2015 01:02 PM PDT

NASA's New Horizons Spacecraft Sends Back Detailed Photos of Charon

Over the last few months, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft has been beaming information back to Earth from the historic Pluto fly-by on July 14th, where the spacecraft snapped pictures of Pluto and its surrounding bodies while it had every opportunity to get up close. This was the first time that we’ve ever gotten anything this close to Pluto before.
 
As the spacecraft continues outbound, information is slow to get back to Earth. We've already received many of them (1), (2), but there are more to come. Being 3.1 billion miles away from the planet means that it takes a long time for the radio waves to travel back to Earth. Nonetheless, NASA is all ears right now.
 
More stunning photographs have made it back to Earth, this time with Pluto and its largest moon Charon being in the frame. Charon is said to be about half of the size of the diameter of Pluto, and as NASA notes, it is the largest satellite relative to its own planet (or dwarf planet in this case) in our solar system.
 

Here we see Pluto (right) and its largest moon Charon (left).


Charon has some very interesting formations on its surface that look a lot like the Grand Canyon, but are a lot longer and a lot deeper. NASA says that the canyons on Charon are up to twice as deep as the Grand Canyon in some locations, and that it’s 1,000 miles long, which is about four times the length of the Grand Canyon.
 


“It looks like the entire crust of Charon has been split open,” said John Spencer, deputy lead for GGI at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado. “With respect to its size relative to Charon, this feature is much like the vast Valles Marineris canyon system on Mars.”
 


These formations split the crust of the planet into two main sections – one North and one South. Scientists say that the South side has smaller craters than the North side, which is a result of younger age. There are also smooth locations on Charon that scientists believe may be the result of volcanic activity or underlying frozen oceans.
 
“The team is discussing 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 that time,” said Paul Schenk, a New Horizons team member from the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston.  
 
With New Horizons already having pushed past Pluto, NASA now wants to try and fly past a Kuiper Belt Object (KBO) known as 2014 MU69 to learn more about its existence way past the target Pluto. It’s an icy body that floats along asteroids about a billion miles away from Pluto. Just like Pluto, NASA wants to grab pictures and information and then receive it here on Earth for observation.
 
Before then, however, there are still plenty more photographs to get back from the spacecraft after its latest mission.

In the mean time, sit back, relax, and watch this awesome video render of the surface of Charon that NASA created with images taken by New Horizons:



Source: NASA

About the Author
  • Fascinated by scientific discoveries and media, Anthony found his way here at LabRoots, where he would be able to dabble in the two. Anthony is a technology junkie that has vast experience in computer systems and automobile mechanics, as opposite as those sound.
You May Also Like
NOV 12, 2019
Space & Astronomy
NOV 12, 2019
If You Missed SpaceX's 'Most Difficult Launch Ever' Yesterday, Then Watch This
In case you missed it, SpaceX conducted its ‘most difficult launch ever’ last evening. The launch involved a Falcon Heavy rocket with two side...
NOV 12, 2019
Space & Astronomy
NOV 12, 2019
Everything You Need to Know About NASA's Plans to Return to the Moon by 2024
It’s been 50 years since the late former NASA astronaut Neil Armstrong set foot on the lunar surface and muttered those famous words: “That&rsq...
NOV 12, 2019
Chemistry & Physics
NOV 12, 2019
8 More to the List: What Does the Growing Number of Repeating Fast Radio Bursts Mean to Astrophysicists
The story of Fast Radio Bursts (FRB) started back in 2007, when Australian astronomer Duncan Lorimer and his student discovered a set of puzzling data reco...
NOV 12, 2019
Space & Astronomy
NOV 12, 2019
Spacewalking Astronauts Install New Docking Adapter on International Space Station
It’s been business as usual for astronauts and cosmonauts on the International Space Station for the past several weeks, but there was a bit more exc...
NOV 12, 2019
Space & Astronomy
NOV 12, 2019
How Much Do You Know About NASA's Voyager Missions?
NASA’s Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft each launched in 1977 for a unique opportunity to explore the solar system’s outermost planets in unprecedent...
NOV 12, 2019
Space & Astronomy
NOV 12, 2019
Starlink Aims to Provide Cutting-Edge Worldwide Internet Access
Almost everyone has heard by now that Elon Musk wants to launch well over 40,000 new satellites into space to deliver high-speed and low-latency internet t...
Loading Comments...