Astronomy Picture of the Day
July 16, 2015

Charon (CTX Frame)
Charon (CTX Frame)

Credits: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute and Dr Paolo C. Fienga/LXTT/IPF for the additional process. and color.

Remarkable new details of Pluto's largest moon Charon are revealed in this wonderful image from New Horizons' Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (or "LORRI", for short), that was taken late on July 13, 2015, from a distance of about 289.000 miles (such as approx. 465.099,26 Km). A swath of Cliffs and Troughs stretches about 600 miles (approx. 1609,34 Km) from left (Sx) to right (Dx), suggesting the occurrence, in a remote past, of a widespread fracturing of Charon's Crust (likely a result of internal processes). At the upper righ (Dx) of the framet, along the moon's curving edge, there is a Canyon that is estimated to be approx. 4 to 6 miles (such as about 6,437 to roughly 9,656 Km) deep.

The Mission Scientists are surprised by the apparent lack of Impact Craters on Charon. South of the moon's Equator, at the bottom of this image, Terrain is lit by the slanting Rays of the Sun, and thus creating shadows that make it easier to distinguish its real Topography. Even here, however, relatively few Impact Craters are visible, and this circumstance indicates a (relatively speaking) young Surface that, probably, has been often reshaped by Geologic Activites.

In Charon's North Polar Regions, a dark marking - which was already prominent in the NASA - New Horizons Spacecraft' approach images - is now seen to have a diffuse (---> lighter in color) Boundary, suggesting that it could be a thin Deposit of Dark Material. Underlying, it is a distinct, sharply bounded, Angular Surface Feature; higher resolution images still to come are expected to shed more light on this truly enigmatic Region.

The image has been compressed to reduce its file size for transmission to Earth. In high-contrast areas of the image, features as small as about 3 miles (approx. 4,828 Km) across can be seen. Some lower-contrast detail is obscured by the compression of the image, which may make some areas appear smoother than they really are. The uncompressed version still resides in New Horizons' Computer Memory and is scheduled to be transmitted at a later date.

Remember that the NASA - New Horizons Spacecraft traveled more than three billion miles over nine-and-a-half years to reach the Plutonian System.

The image (which is an Original NASA - New Horizons Spacecraft's falsely colored and NON Map-Projected frame published on the NASA - Planetary Phojournal with the ID n. 19709) has been additionally processed, magnified to aid the visibility of the details, contrast enhanced and sharpened, Gamma corrected and then re-colorized (according to an educated guess carried out by Dr Paolo C. Fienga-LXTT-IPF) in Absolute Natural Colors (such as the colors that a normal human eye would actually perceive if someone were onboard the NASA - New Horizons Spacecraft and then looked ahead, towards the Plutonian moon Charon), by using an original technique created - and, in time, dramatically improved - by the Lunar Explorer Italia Team.

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