​NASA Releases Photos of Charon, Pluto’s Biggest Moon
Image: NASA

​NASA Releases Photos of Charon, Pluto’s Biggest Moon

Charon’s features include a massive canyon range, landslides, and mountains.
October 2, 2015, 5:43pm

Since New Horizons passed Pluto in July, we've seen our former planet ("It's Complicated") in stunning detail. Now NASA is giving us a close look at Charon, Pluto's largest moon.

The images were taken with New Horizons' Long Range Reconnaissance Imager during the flyby on July 14th, but were only just posted by NASA. As with Pluto, NASA was surprised and pleased to find that Charon showed a wide range of geological variations, including canyons, landslides, and "surface-color variations."

"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," said Ross Beyer, a member of the New Horizons team.

One of the canyon systems stretches out four times the length of the Grand Canyon, and reaches depths almost twice as deep. Charon is also crowned with a reddish spot at its north pole, an area with the badass name of Mordor Macula.


South of the canyon, Charon has some unusually smooth plains, hinting at more recent geological activity relative to the rest of the planet. "The team is discussing the possibility that an internal water ocean could have frozen long ago, and the resulting volume change could have led to Charon cracking open, allowing water-based lavas to reach the surface at that time," said Paul Schenk, another New Horizons team member.

NASA promises more detailed Charon photos are to come as New Horizons keeps transmitting data back to Earth.