Orbiting around a dwarf planet, this large satellite has long been a factor of interest for astronomers. Now this latest report reveals that Pluto’s fascinating moon may have had an underground ocean, on top of its already famous “ice volcanoes”.
A set of images released by NASA show signs that Charon might have harbored an ocean once. From the look of things, the underground ocean may have frozen over the years and even expanded to great lengths.
Because of the pressure, certain cracks appeared in the surface, which are still visible today. The New Horizon spacecraft managed to capture some pictures of Charon in July 2015, which revealed some interesting facts.
On the surface, Charon appears to be a shifting ensemble of tectonic plates. It displays various features, such as escarpments and ridges and even troughs that are 4 miles deep.
Because of the extreme expansion that this satellite has undergone, it has led to several stress fractures, creating a sort of double perspective, which some people jokingly compare to the Incredible Hulk ripping his shirt open.
Charon’s surface is mostly comprised of water and ice. Because of the high levels of radioactivity and inner heat, the water may have been quite warm in the beginning.
Experts believe that this heat might have created a strange underground ocean, which later froze and caused the moon’s structure to crack.
The recent images reveal what is informally called the Serenity Chasma, which is a tectonic formation that emerged when the surface was pulled up.
Similar incidences can be found on our planet also, when a crust cracks open and creates a valley or a steep bank. Charon’s fractured system is around 1,800 kilometers long and in certain areas, the chasms are 7.5 kilometers deep.
To put things in perspective, the Grand Canyon, which is one of the largest natural formations on Earth, is 46 kilometers long and has a depth of just 1.6 kilometers.
The pictures were obtained using the Long-Range Reconnaissance Imager from the New Horizon spacecraft, at a distance of around 78,700 kilometers from Charon.
Out of the dwarf planet’s five moons, Charon is by far the largest one, with a diameter that is half of Pluto’s. It was discovered back in 1978 by James Christy and has since been a constant source of information for astronomers worldwide, with its origin still not completely understood.
Image Source: TheRegister