NASA's New Horizon spacecraft snaps night falling over Pluto's largest moon Charon.
New Horizon spacecraft has taken a ‘hauntingly beautiful’ image of Pluto’s largest moon, Charon.
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Charon is all covered in darkness expect a bright, thin silver area in its lower left illuminated by the sun. The night has fallen over the Charon, but still its surface is faintly visible in the soft light reflected off Pluto. This is similar to the way Earth lights up its Moon every month right before crescent or after a new Moon.
The image is a combination of 16 one-second exposures which were captured by New Horizons’ Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) just three day after its epic flyby of Pluto, from a range of 1.9 million miles or 3.1 million kilometers. In July 2015, the spacecraft made the closest approach to Pluto and its moon Charon.
“Scientists on the New Horizons team are using this and similar images to map portions of Charon otherwise not visible during flyby. This includes Charon’s south pole – toward the top of this image which entered polar night in 1989 and will not see sunlight again until 2107. Charon’s polar temperatures drop to near absolute zero during this long winter.” Author wrote in NASA’s blog.
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Charon is the largest of five known moon of dwarf planet Pluto and was discovered in 1978. The moon is very large compared to its parent body and is almost half as wide as Pluto itself.