New Horizon’s Team Delves into the Mystery of Charon’s “Red Pole”

Details of Pluto's largest moon, Charon, are revealed in this image from New Horizons' Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI), taken July 13, 2015, from a distance of 289,000 miles (466,000 kilometers), combined with color information obtained by New Horizons' Ralph instrument on the same day. The distinctive red  marking in Charon's north polar region is currently being studied by scientists. Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute)

Details of Pluto’s largest moon, Charon, are revealed in this image from New Horizons’ Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI), taken July 13, 2015, from a distance of 289,000 miles (466,000 kilometers), combined with color information obtained by New Horizons’ Ralph instrument on the same day. The distinctive red marking in Charon’s north polar region is currently being studied by scientists. Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute)

As we await new imagery and data from the New Horizons’ flyby of the Pluto system to be transmitted to Earth, one piece of the Pluto-Charon puzzle that scientists are looking forward learning more about is the mysterious “dark pole” on Charon. Images sent immediately after the flyby reveal Charon’s north polar region is much darker than the lighter-colored material surrounding it, and it actually has a reddish cast to it.

The New Horizons team says the red pole appears to be a thin deposit of dark material over a distinct, sharply bounded, angular feature – perhaps and impact basin – and scientists hope to learn more by studying higher-resolution images that are currently being beamed back to Earth from the spacecraft.
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© nancy for Universe Today, 2015. |
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