If the images of the dwarf planet Pluto published by NASA in recent months haven’t been enough for you, now high-resolution photos of Charon, its largest moon, have been released. The first images arrived soon after the New Horizons space probe’s July 14, 2015 flyby had already shown a moon with a complex geology. These new images show even better the deep chasms that ply its equator and the curious color of its north pole.
An article just published in the journal “Icarus” describes a research that used data collected by the Cassini space probe to determine that Enceladus, one of Saturn’s moons, has a global underground ocean. That there was an ocean beneath the icy surface of Enceladus was a well-established fact from previous research but it remained to be seen whether the water was liquid all over beneath the surface or only in some warm enough areas.
An article published in the journal “Geophysical Research Letters” describes a research on the implications of multiple asteroid impacts on the Moon some four billion years ago. Using data collected by NASA’s GRAIL (Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory) twin space probes, a team of scientists led by MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) discovered a significant porosity in the lunar surface and a network of large seams below it.
NASA unveiled the first of the long-awaited photographs taken by the New Horizons spacecraft during its Pluto flyby that took place on July 14. They reveal among other things the presence of mountains even 3,500 meters (11,000 feet) high. A photo of Charon taken on July 13 was also released and it shows several fractures on its crust. These close-up images show geological activity on both Pluto and Charon, an unexpected fact.
Today, NASA’s New Horizons space probe will carry out the much anticipated Pluto flyby. When at NASA’s mission control center it’s early morning, it will pass at a distance that will reach a minimum of 12,500 kilometers (about 7,800 miles) from the dwarf planet. All New Horizons’ instruments will be used to analyze Pluto as ever before but some time will be devoted also to its moons, particularly Charon.