Mysterious mountain revealed in first close-up of Pluto's moon Charon

Mysterious mountain revealed in first close-up of Pluto’s moon Charon
This new image of an area on Pluto’s largest moon Charon has a captivating feature — a depression with a peak in the middle, shown here in the upper left corner of the inset. The image shows an area approximately 240 miles (390 kilometers) from top to bottom, including few visible craters. The image was taken at approximately 6:30 a.m. EDT on July 14, 2015, about 1.5 hours before closest approach to Pluto, from a range of 49,000 miles (79,000 kilometers). Credit: NASA-JHUAPL-SwRI

A mysterious mountain in the middle of a moat on Pluto's biggest moon Charon, has captivated and baffled scientists leading NASA's New Horizons mission which made history when it became the first spacecraft to visit our solar system's most distant planet barely two days ago on Tuesday morning, July 14, 2015.

NASA released the first close-up image of Charon today (July 16), shown above, and it has the geology team scratching their heads in amazement and wonder. They can't figure out the nature of a big set inside a moat.

The new image shows a depression with a mountain peak in the middle.

"The most intriguing feature is a large mountain sitting in a moat," said Jeff Moore with NASA's Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, California, who leads New Horizons' Geology, Geophysics and Imaging team. "This is a feature that has geologists stunned and stumped."

The location of the "mountain in a moat" is shown in the inset of a global view of Charon.

The new high resolution image of Charon was taken at approximately 6:30 a.m. EDT (10:30 UTC), barely an hour and a half before the piano-shaped spacecraft's closest approach to Pluto on July 14, 2015, from a range of only 49,000 miles (79,000 kilometers).

The image was captured by New Horizons' Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI).

A much sharper view is yet to come, because the image is heavily compressed.

"Sharper versions are anticipated when the full-fidelity data from New Horizons' Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) are returned to Earth," say NASA officials.

Altogether it will take 16 months to transmit all the data collected by New Horizons at the Pluto system.

Mysterious mountain revealed in first close-up of Pluto’s moon Charon
Crisp new view of Pluto’s largest moon, Charon shows a swath of cliffs and troughs stretches about 600 miles (1,000 kilometers) from left to right, suggesting widespread fracturing of Charon’s crust, likely a result of internal processes. At upper right, along the moon’s curving edge, is a canyon estimated to be 4 to 6 miles (7 to 9 kilometers) deep. Credit: NASA-JHUAPL-SwRI

The area in the LORRI image comprises an area approximately 240 miles (390 kilometers) from top to bottom.

Notably there are few visible craters "indicating a relatively young surface that has been reshaped by geologic activity."

Mysterious mountain revealed in first close-up of Pluto’s moon Charon
Chasms, craters, and a dark north polar region are revealed in this image of Pluto’s largest moon Charon taken by New Horizons on July 11, 2015. The annotated version includes a diagram showing Charon’s north pole, equator, and central meridian, with the features highlighted. Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SWRI

And a "swath of cliffs and troughs stretching about 600 miles (1,000 kilometers) suggests widespread fracturing of Charon's crust, likely the result of internal geological processes," notes the team.

After a nine year voyage through interplanetary space, New Horizons barreled past the Pluto system on Tuesday, July 14 for a history making first ever flyby at over 31,000 mph (49,600 kph), and survived the passage by swooping barely 7,750 miles (12,500 kilometers) above the planet's amazingly diverse surface.


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New Image of Pluto: 'Houston, We Have Geology'

Source: Universe Today
Citation: Mysterious mountain revealed in first close-up of Pluto's moon Charon (2015, July 17) retrieved 13 October 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2015-07-mysterious-mountain-revealed-close-up-pluto.html
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Jul 17, 2015
Pluto and Charon show extensive and recent geologic activity from some mysterious internal heat source. Scientists attribute the internal heat to radioactive decay. Tidal forces, such as Jupiter imposes on its moons, does not exist. If the planets and moons of our solar system only had a fixed, starting inventory of radioactive materials ---- that had drifted around for eons before even starting to accrete into our solar system 5 billion years ago --- don't you think the starting inventory of radionuclides would have been a greatly diminished ? A far better explanation for the internal heat for all major celestial bodies, as well as the ignition source for stellar fusion, would be the accretion of the heavy Transuranics to the core of every major body by gravity to form a critical mass fission reactor. Over time, the consolidation of these heavy elements stratify by atomic mass to form a Thorium-based naturally occurring breeder reactor. Google the works of Dr. J. Marvin Herndon.

Jul 17, 2015
Stunned eh!
Looks like an impact crater, like this one.
http://history.na.../p72.jpg

Jul 17, 2015
When the scientists are wrong: it's OK, others may not, it's not okay. No one not subscribed to a source of ideas and thinking. In spite of many smart heads, the universe brings unforeseen vistas.
Science are contributed to and those who are not selected (predestined) ..

Jul 17, 2015
This comment has been removed by a moderator.

Jul 17, 2015
I hear they have already changed the name from "mountain in the middle of a moat"
to "Clit".

Jul 17, 2015
of course, it very well could also be a simple cause, like steam...
A new experimental study shows that craters resulting from underground air cavity explosions have much smoother outer rims than craters formed from the impact of a large object. These results could help scientists identify the origin of planetary craters and better understand planetary terrains.

http://physics.ap...5.028001

Tidal forces, such as Jupiter imposes on its moons, does not exist.
@richard
WELL then, i am so glad you told me that! I was going to wait till high tide to launch a new boat since that is when the water would be where i needed it to save the hull... guess i can do it ANYTIME, since tidal forces (such as your above mentioned) are also responsible for EARTH tides (see: moon....)

so... where is the evidence of your claim??

Jul 17, 2015
Can't you armchair scientists just enjoy some pretty pictures without inventing some looney toons imaginary claim? Just let the grownup scientists with 10 years of planning for this mission talk.

Jul 17, 2015
Gotta remember that scientists spent 10 years on a mission to photograph a barren and realistically quite mundane object and are constrained by their human nature to glorify their efforts in order to justify the financial expenditure and their personal investments in time. They are making mountains out of molehills. Really, nothing to see here.

I am unconditionally super-enthused about this mission for one reason, and that is reflected in what one spokesman said recently about New Horizons, "It's like getting a hole in one out of a two-mile drive". Bad analogy really, since it is really all about calculus and physics. Kudos to all the New Horizons team. This has been a truly amazing achievement.

Jul 17, 2015
Convenient bit of NASA PR on Pluto to deflect attention away from the rather inconvenient news about the lights on CERES, for which NASA is conveniently silent lately.

http://phys.org/n...firstCmt

Don't worry about the lights, think about Pluto! Much more interesting anyway....

Jul 18, 2015
"Scientists attribute the internal heat to radioactive decay"

So how match persent of the mass of the planet must be radio isopops cappable to survive fictional bilion of years to sustain this geological processes with this small volume of this celestial body and its great distance from the sun?


Jul 18, 2015
"...persent of the mass of the planet must be radio isopops cappable to survive.."


Classic viko_mx

It looks like someone got a copy of "Baby's First Physics"--totally adorable.

Jul 19, 2015
16 months for a download of all the data and I thought my internet was slow! Seriously though we need to put some sort of relay satellites to increase signal strength and bandwidth.

Jul 19, 2015
And lo, the lord spoke it upon the firmament,

"So how match persent of the mass of the planet must be radio isopops cappable to survive fictional bilion of years to sustain this geological processes with this small volume of this celestial body and its great distance from the sun?"

-And behold! there was light.

Jul 19, 2015
low mas low gravity moon hit by low mas asteroid slowly (relativly) warm enough to melt fluid then sink in enough to form moat leaving original object to stand proud in centre!

Jul 20, 2015
Maybe the remains of a low velocity impactor? E.g. something hit Pluto and this is one of the ejecta that landed on Charon. An ejected bolide that juuust about makes it through L1 of the Charon-Pluto system would not have a lot of speed when it hits (about half a kilometer per second) - and might therefore not necessarily completely disintegrate upon impact. Especially if Charon is significantly less dense than Pluto.

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