Pluto’s Moon Charon May Have Had An Ancient Ocean

Posted: Feb 20 2016, 8:45am CST | by , in News | Latest Science News

Pluto’s Moon Charon May Had An Ancient Ocean
A close-up of the canyons on Charon, Pluto's big moon, taken by New Horizons during its close approach to the Pluto system last July. Multiple views taken by New Horizons as it passed by Charon allow stereo measurements of topography, shown in the color-coded version of the image. The scale bar indicates relative elevation. Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI
  • Pluto’s Moon Charon may once have harbored an Ocean

If the latest data is anything to go by, Pluto’s moon Charon may once have harbored an ocean.

Pluto’s large moon named Charon was supposedly the site of an ancient ocean. Pics taken by NASA show evidence of this hypothesis. Charon’s subterranean ocean has frozen with the passage of time and undergone massive expansion.

This of course had led to the surface cracking under pressure and the fractures are visible today. NASA’s New Horizon’s spacecraft took panoramic photographs of one side of Charon in mid-July of last year.

The surface of Charon looks to be a shifting arrangement of tectonic plates. The topographical features include ridges, escarpments and troughs. The troughs occasionally reach 4 miles in depth.

Charon expanded sometime in its history beyond the normal levels. This led to stretching and stress fractures rather in the manner of the Incredible Hulk ripping his shirt when he gets angry and emerging as the true monster that he is inside.

The surface of Charon consists of water and ice. This may have been warm early onwards in the moon’s infancy thanks to the levels of radioactivity and inner heat.

The warmth could have resulted in an underground ocean of sorts. However, later on it froze and this expansion caused the surface structure to rupture for better or for worse.

This is obvious from the huge abysses we see on the surface today. It is proof that once upon a time such was not the case. The images that reach us show the Serenity Chasma which is a part and parcel of a lengthy belt of deep gorges on the surface of Charon.

This series of abysses runs some 1100 miles. At places the chasms become as deep as 4.5 miles. When compared to geographical features on earth, the situation is quite different. The Grand Canyon is just 227 miles in length and runs a single mile deep.

Thus Charon is unique in its topography. The lower side of the image shows color coded features. This evinces the fact that early on in its history, this may have been water but it has refrozen as the relentless current of time passed it by.

The photos were taken by the LORRI (Long Range Reconnaissance Imager) aboard the New Horizons spacecraft. The resolution of the image was perfect and it lent valuable clues that have given scientists and astronomers an in-depth analysis of Pluto’s moon, Charon.

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/20" rel="author">Sumayah Aamir</a>
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