Why Charon Mountain Has Scientists “Stumped,” Plus the Next Pluto Images (UPDATE: New Images!)
New Horizons Charon mountain

Update: Check out the new images! Frozen plains on Pluto!

New Horizons’ latest image is a close-up of Charon, one of Pluto’s moons. And it’s a head-scratcher for scientists.

See the depression/pit in the top left with a mountain rising from its center?

“This is a feature that has geologists stunned and stumped,” says Jeff Moore, leader of New Horizons’ Geology, Geophysics and Imaging team.

It is a weird looking feature. It almost looks like an asteroid hit very slowly.

The above image is the first close-up to be released of Charon. You can see how compressed it is. See how it looks blocky? Those are compression artifacts. Sharper images will come as New Horizons sends data from its Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) to Earth.

New Horizons snapped this image of Charon just before its closest approach at a distance of 49,000 miles.

The surfaces of Pluto and Charon are a surprise to the New Horizons team. Everyone thought the two bodies would be ancient terrains covered in craters. But, there not. You can see craters on Charon’s surface in the image, but there should be more. The first set of images from New Horizons’ closest approach suggests the surfaces of Pluto and Charon are much younger than expected. They may even be active today.

When are the next images coming?

NASA will hold their next media briefing at 1 p.m. EDT today. During the briefing, we will see new images of Pluto and learn more about the dwarf planet and its system.

I’m hoping for images of a different area of Pluto’s surface. Will we see craters? The absence of craters was one of the most surprising things about the first up-close image of Pluto. Was that area specific, or are other areas of Pluto lacking craters?

Pluto mountains

NASA will be live streaming the media briefing at NASA TV.

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