It took more than a few years, but when NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft finally sent back some of the first high-quality pictures ever captured of Pluto’s moon Charon, it brought just as many questions as answers.
One of the big ones: What’s up with the chasm that appears to be ripping through the middle of the moon? Now the New Horizons team believe they might’ve figured it out.
As Popular Science reports, researchers posit that when Charon was a young moon, it likely had a radioactive core to keep it warm all those billions of miles away from the sun. That warmth could’ve created an ocean under the surface, which would’ve persevered until the moon’s radioactive core ran out of gas. At that point, it would’ve frozen and expanded, essentially ripping a massive crack through the center of the moon.
Once all was said and done, the chasm digs as deep as 4.5 miles into the moon and measures approximately 1,100 miles long (that’s four times the size of the Grand Canyon, as a point of reference). Yeah, not a small crack. Per the report, the team found some evidence that parts of the surface had refrozen (after melting) in the past around the crack, which led them to this theory.
May the cosmos never cease to amaze us.
(Via Popular Science)