Charon, a moon of Pluto, has a methane atmosphere and a canyon deep enough to fit Mount Everest. Like Pluto, Charon has complex organics that are similar to those on Pluto. The north pole is a dark red. Informally named Mordor after the home of the Dark Lord Sauron in The Lord of the Rings, Charon’s equatorial region is characterized by a series of canyons known as Serenity and Nostromo Chasma.
Charon is a satellite of Pluto
Known as Pluto I, Charon is the largest of the five natural satellites of Pluto. It has a mean radius of 606 kilometers, making it the sixth largest trans-Neptunian object. It is not entirely sure what its history is, but it’s not likely to be as mysterious as Pluto itself. However, its discovery did provide scientists with some information about Pluto. So, what is Charon and why is it so fascinating?
The planet’s moon Charon was discovered by astronomer James Christy in 1978. In a series of images taken by Christy, he noticed a strange elongation on the surface of Pluto. This elongation cycled back and forth over Pluto’s rotation period. Christy subsequently searched archived images of Pluto, which confirmed the presence of Charon. The new moon’s discovery is now known as the ‘Pluto-Charon system’.
The moon of Pluto ejects a large amount of methane gas that freezes on Charon’s polar surface. This methane ices onto the polar regions of Charon during the cold winter months, causing the surface to appear red. Scientists believe that this red formation is caused by a chemical reaction between methane and sunlight. The gas turns into red molecules that are too heavy to escape back into space.
It is composed of frozen water
Almost all of Charon’s outer layer is made of water ice. Scientists believe that the icy planet was once a liquid world, but the presence of radioactive elements may have frozen the water long ago. During its formation, the planet was hot enough to have an ocean, which subsequently expanded as the space rock cooled. That’s why the chasms on Charon can be as deep as four miles, four times deeper than the Grand Canyon.
Scientists have suggested that the water ice on Charon may have formed when proto-Pluto collided with something larger. This collision formed unequal parts of the planet. While this initial collision caused considerable heat, the presence of radioactive elements in the core is likely to have added to the heating. These results suggest that Charon’s surface is mostly water, with traces of ammonia. If this is true, the icy surface would have swelled to accommodate the ice’s expansion.
The composition of Charon is different from Pluto’s, suggesting that it may have been a separate dwarf planet. It was captured by the gravity of Pluto and its moon during a mutual eclipse in 1985. Charon’s density is only 1.2 to 1.3 g/cm3, indicating that it contains little or no rock. Similarly, Pluto has a density of 1.8 to two grams per cubic centimeter, which further rules out the possibility of double planets through accretion.
It has a canyon deep enough to fit Mount Everest
In the astronomical field, the deep canyon on the planet Charon is more than 1,000 miles wide and seven to nine kilometers deep. Mount Everest, which is 8,8 km high, is roughly the same height as the canyon on Charon. The canyon’s immense size may be the reason why the planet has been nicknamed Charon’s Grand Canyon. The planet’s surface is also made up of extensive cliffs, including a 1,000-kilometer-deep canyon that stretches for nearly one million miles.
Scientists discovered this formation on Charon’s north pole in 2006. It is made up of methane, carbon monoxide, and nitrogen. The planet is too small to hold onto its own atmosphere, but it captures it and funnels it onto the surface of Charon. These substances interact with ultraviolet light from the sun and form a compound called tholins, which are reddish in color.
In addition to having a canyon deep enough to fit Mount Evere, Charon has impact craters that are the same height as the mountain on Earth. The largest crater has a dark substance that covers its floor, and Charon’s polar regions are reddish in color, owing to its proximity to Pluto. Scientists also found that Charon has a mountain on its surface that resembles a “mountain in a moat,” a reference to its appearance. Interestingly, scientists believe that the mountain is positioned within a chasm as a result of the freezing and expansion of an ancient ocean.
It has a methane atmosphere
Methane is the primary component of the atmosphere of the planet Charon, and the methane molecule is found at the planet’s poles and ice caps. Methane molecules bouncing off the surface of the planet bounce around, and when the Sun’s ultraviolet radiation hits them, they convert to heavier, nitrogen-rich molecules. These trapped methane molecules sublimate when the ultraviolet light hits them, but less volatile products remain for a long time enough to be converted into water. In a billion years, half of the frozen products would sublimate, leaving behind heavier hydrocarbons.
Scientists think the methane on Pluto would freeze on Charon’s polar surfaces, forming the red-colored tholins that are the primary components of the planet’s atmosphere. To study the formation of these tholins, researchers created a model that replicated the conditions of the Charon surface. The researchers also hope to study the role of solar wind in the formation of the red pole.
The methane on Pluto also leaks onto Charon. This gas is drawn to the polar poles by Charon’s gravity and subsequently freezes on the planet’s surface. Scientists believe that the methane on Pluto is a result of chemical reactions powered by ultraviolet light. The methane molecules on Charon are believed to have come from Pluto and then froze on the moon’s north pole. Scientists have also suggested that the methane molecules on Charon have extreme seasonal dynamics. The methane that freezes on Charon may be driven off the polar night zones by sunrise in spring.
It orbits its planet every 6.4 days
Charon, like Pluto, is very far away but close enough to be visible from Earth. Scientists have been trying to find out how it got so close to Pluto that it can orbit it. Pluto is around 3.3 billion miles away, and Charon is only a few miles closer. The moon’s rotation period causes it to change position over time, so it’s not easy to spot. But astronomers have a theory. Charon could be a satellite or a mountain, and it’s probably not as far away as Pluto is.
While studying Pluto’s atmosphere, scientists have discovered that Charon has a red formation at its northern pole. This reddish tint is the result of Pluto’s atmosphere, which is too small to hold onto for a lifetime. Pluto’s atmosphere contains gases like methane and carbon monoxide, and Charon captures these molecules and traps them in its atmosphere. These gases, called tholins, are formed when galactic cosmic rays interact with Pluto’s atmosphere.
While Pluto has only been discovered in 1930, Charon was discovered in 1978 by astronomer James Christy. The astronomer named the moon Charon after his wife, Charlene. Christy pronounced its name SHAR-on, but he added the word “on” to make it sound more scientific. Charon orbits its planet every 6.4 days, which is almost as long as the rotation period of Pluto.
It has a red cap
A dark red cap covers the northern pole of the Charon planet, and its southern pole is slightly darker. In the past, some scientists have speculated that this cap is the result of organic compounds that have accumulated on the surface of the planet. These compounds were formed in reaction between gases catalyzed by solar radiation and charged particles. Now, a computer model suggests that a similar process may also occur on Charon.
New Horizons images of Charon have shown scattered craters near the lower pole, along with a belt of rough terrain that appears to be tectonic in nature. The red cap on Charon is a feature of the planet that scientists have not yet been able to explain, but it is distinctly distinct from other planets. The red cap is likely the result of seasonal atmospheric surges caused by ultraviolet radiation and methane.
Researchers have speculated that the red cap on Charon is actually the result of hydrocarbon, which is less volatile than ethane. Because of this, ethane ice on Charon remains frozen on its surface after a spring sunrise. This has been verified in laboratory experiments. Researchers plan to look at the role of solar wind in the formation of the red pole. A more complicated explanation of the “red cap” on Charon may require further research and more lab tests.