New Charon Images Reveal Great Canyon System

Posted on October 2, 2015

New high-resolution image of Charon

New Horizons has shared the highest resolution images yet of Pluto's moon Charon. The enhanced color view of Charon above was taken just before New Horizons' closest approach on July 14, 2015. It was taken using the Ralph/Multispectral Visual Imaging Camera (MVIC).

The reddish polar region on Charon has informally been named Mordor Macula. Scientists have been surprised to find mountains, canyons and more on the moon. The new image resolves details as small as 1.8 miles (2.9 kilometers). A larger version of the image can be found here on nasa.gov.

Ross Beyer, an affiliate of the New Horizons Geology, Geophysics and Imaging (GGI) team from the SETI Institute and NASA Ames Research Center, says in a statement, "We thought the probability of seeing such interesting features on this satellite of a world at the far edge of our solar system was low but I couldn't be more delighted with what we see."

The new images also reveal a belt of fractures and canyons north of Charon's equator. The canyon system stretches over 1,000 (1,600 kilometers) across the entire face of Charon. It is thought to also extend around Charon's far side. It is four times as long as the Grand Canyon on Earth and twice as deep in spots.

John Spencer, deputy lead for GGI at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, says, "It looks like the entire crust of Charon has been split open. With respect to its size relative to Charon, this feature is much like the vast Valles Marineris canyon system on Mars."

NASA also released this flyover video that takes viewers from Mordor to a moated mountain informally named Kubrick Mons. Take a look:



Photo: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI