Charon Lit by Plutoshine

This image was taken by the Ralph/Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera aboard New Horizons on 15 July, 2015, when the spacecraft was around 160,000 km beyond Pluto. It shows the night side the moon Charon against a star field. Charon, which about the size of Texas, is mostly lit by faint light reflected from Pluto. The bright crescent on Charon’s right edge is a bit of sunlit terrain, overexposed compared to the rest of the image.

Image Credits: NASA / JHUAPL / SwRI

Pluto Paints Charon Red

full-res-charonThe New Horizons spacecraft took this high-resolution, enhanced color photo of Pluto’s largest moon Charon just before closest approach on 14 July, 2015. This image was created by combining blue, red and infrared images taken by the spacecraft’s Ralph/Multispectral Visual Imaging Camera. It’s been processed to highlight the variation of surface properties across Charon. The reddish material in the north (top) polar region (informally known as Mordor Macula) is methane that has escaped from Pluto’s atmosphere and been captured by Charon. Charon is 1,214 km across, and this image resolves details as small as 2.9 km.

Image Credit: NASA

Pluto and Its Moons

Most moons in the solar system are tidally locked and keep one face pointed toward their central planet. Charon, Pluto’s largest moon, behaves this way,  but Pluto’s four small moons behave like spinning tops. Pluto is shown at center of this animation with, in order, from smaller to wider orbit: Charon, Styx, Nix, Kerberos, Hydra.


Video Credit: NASA

Flying Over Charon

Images from the New Horizons spacecraft’s Long-Range Reconnaissance Imager were used to create this flyover video of Pluto’s largest moon Charon. The Gentle Viewer will note that one of the surface features is labeled as a “planet-wide canyon.” The Pluto/Charon system is really a double planet. In fact, if Charon were off by itself, it would be counted as a dwarf planet in its own right. It’s diameter is bit over 600 km, about 28% greater than that of Ceres.

The flight begins about 1,800 km over Mordor, a dark region near Charon’s north pole and then moves south to a vast canyon, descending to only 60 km altitude to fly through the canyon system. Next, it turns south to view the plains and “moat mountain” named Kubrick Mons, a prominent peak surrounded by a topographic depression. BTW, Mordor and Kubrick Mons are working names give to these features by the mission science team. They aren’t official yet.


Video Credit: NASA