New Horizons Releases Close-Up View Of Charon's 'Mountain in a Moat'

by Sophia Nasr, @Pharaoness

The New Horizons mission team has just released the first ever close-up image of Pluto's largest moon Charon. The image reveals a strange feature on its surface - a depression with a peak in the middle - that is puzzling scientists. The science team refers to this feature as a "mountain on a moat."

Close-Up of the feature nicknamed Mountain in a Moat on Charon. This new image has a captivating feature—a depression with a peak in the middle, shown on the upper left corner of the inset. Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SWRI

The close-up covers an area of about 300 kilometers (200 miles). Along with the mountain on a moat, you can see several impact craters scattered about the area, smooth terrain surrounding the craters, and linear fissures. "The most intriguing feature is a large mountain sitting in a moat," said Jeff Moore with NASA’s Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, California, leader of the New Horizons’ Geology, Geophysics and Imaging team. "This is a feature that has geologists stunned and stumped."

Annotated image of Charon

The most recent images of Pluto and Charon make it increasingly apparent how different the surfaces of the pair are from each other. Pluto’s surface is ridden with mountainous terrain, while Charon’s surface is smoother with more craters. This suggests that the geological history of the pair is different.

The newest image was captured by NASA's New Horizons when it was about 79,000 kilometres from Charon, just 1.5 hours before its closest approach to Pluto this past Tuesday.

This image is just a preview of what we’ll see from New Horizons in the future. Much like the previous images, this one was compressed for purposes of transmission. Future images sent by New Horizons will be a lot sharper, so further details will be visible. Stay tuned!

More Images To Be Released Friday

NASA will release new Pluto images and science findings at a Live NASA TV Briefing on July 17.

For the original Pluto press release, click here.

Sophia Nasr is an astrophysics student at York University. Actively involved in the astronomical community at York U, she is the President of the Astronomy Club at York University and a member of the team at the York University Observatory. She also is involved in university projects, and holds a position in research on dark matter at York U. Holding scientific outreach dear, Sophia is actively involved in social media outlets such as Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus, where she shares with the world her passion for the universe and how it works.

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