Scientists found an explanation for the peculiar look of Pluto’s largest moon. Its’ moon, called Charon, has a large red spot on its’ North pole, and researchers believe that the dwarf planet creates it. It is the first explanation they come up with after receiving information about both the planet and its moon from the New Horizons mission.
NASA scientists launched the New Horizons spacecraft one year ago, in 2015. Last summer, New Horizons made a historic flyby, which provided researchers with useful information. Among the data received, they were able to tell a remarkable feature of Charon, based on the pictures caught by the spacecraft’s camera.
According to NASA officials, Pluto’s moon, Charon, displays a wide red area at the top of its North pole. Researchers have been trying to understand and explain the phenomenon which triggers such a unique spatial landscape. It seems like Pluto is responsible for the reddish appearance of its moon.
Researchers state that Pluto’s red moon captures the methane gas released by the atmosphere of the dwarf planet. Charon’s gravitation limits the methane gas to its northern part. Due to the low temperatures on Charon, the gas freezes. However, there is another element which leads to the unusual coloring, namely ultraviolet radiation from the Sun. It is them the ones that turn the frozen gas into red, solid materials, called tholins.
For the recent research, computerized technology was used. Data on Pluto’s and Charon’s temperatures were crucial for the studies. The ultraviolet rays from the Sun affect Charon’s gas formation at spring time. Some of the material melts, while the remains turn into tholins.
Previous theories claimed that Charon’s atmosphere turned methane gas from Pluto into the red material, but there was no reliable evidence whatsoever. The new data provided by the New Horizons spacecraft helped researchers find out more about this exceptional behavior of both the planet and its moon.
NASA researchers who are in charge of the New Horizons mission are enthusiastic about the discovery. Will Grundy is the lead author of a paper on Pluto’s red moon. From his perspective, Pluto is like a graffiti artist, while its’ moon, Charon, stands as a work of art. He also says that the red area on Pluto’s moon is about the size of New Mexico.
The new paper on Pluto’s red moon was published in the journal Nature.
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