Planets and Moons  ID: 12081

Charon Makes Its Debut

Charon is the largest of Pluto’s five moons. Once thought to be a uniform ball of ice, images taken by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft during its July 2015 flyby of the Pluto system reveal a varied world with surprising features. Dark compounds, believed to be frozen wisps of atmosphere from Pluto, blanket Charon’s northern pole. Running across Charon’s surface are cracks stretching at least 1,000 miles, including a chasm deeper than the Grand Canyon. What’s more, the moon may not even be a moon. Charon and Pluto tango around a center of mass that lies in space between them, like two ends of a lopsided dumbbell. The irregular orbits have some scientists calling the bodies a double planet. Explore the video and images to learn more.

Story Credits

Carly Howett (New Horizons/Southwest Research Institute)
Mark Sykes (Planetary Science Institute)

Lead Writer:
Natalie Jacewicz (USRA)

Please give credit for this item to:
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center
Video and Charon images courtesy of NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute
Charon and Earth's moon image courtesy of New Horizons/Southwest Research Institute/Carly Howett

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