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The natural world. Looking pretty for 3.5b years.

Charon's Grand Canyon

Charon's Grand Canyon

Author: Hugh Bollinger/Saturday, February 20, 2016/Categories: natural history, photography, space science, environment, adventure

New Horizons continues providing big surprises from its Pluto encounter. Besides the dwarf planet's own still active geology, new images of Pluto's moon, Charon, indicate that Charon may once had a sub-surface ocean.

According to the NASA investigators,

"Pluto’s largest moon is characterized by a system of “pull apart” tectonic faults, which are expressed as ridges, scarps and valleys, with the valley's reaching more than 4 miles deep. Charon’s tectonic landscape shows that the moon expanded in its past, and it's surface fractured as it stretched."

The scientists continued to explain the unusual landforms observed on Charon's surface: "The moon's outer layer is primarily water ice that was kept warm by heat provided by the decay of radioactive elements, as well as the moon's internal heat of formation, when Charon was young. The moon could have been warm enough for the ice to melt creating a subsurface ocean but as Charon cooled the ocean would have frozen and expanded lifting the moon's outermost layers and producing the massive chasms" observed by New Horizons. 

With every new bit of information received by NASA, Pluto and its companions become more and more interesting and the data continues being dowloaded by New Horizons.



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