Science

Pluto moon close-up reveals 'captivating' peak-in-a-pocket

NASA has released a new image from the New Horizons spacecraft's historic Pluto flyby this week that reveals a strange feature on Pluto's largest moon, Charon.

Geological signs suggest Pluto is not a dead ice ball as previously thought

A close-up of Pluto's largest moon, Charon, shows a depression with a peak in the middle, seen in the upper left corner of the inset. The image shows an area approximately 390 kilometres from top to bottom. (NASA-JHUAPL-SwRI)

NASA has released a new image from the New Horizons spacecraft's historic Pluto flyby this week that reveals a strange feature on Pluto's largest moon, Charon.

It's a depression with a peak in the middle, and it looks to be about 50 kilometres across. NASA calls the strange feature "captivating."

The U.S. space agency is set to release more close-ups of Pluto and its moons at a media briefing at 1 p.m. ET Friday. It will be live streamed on CBCNews.ca.

The first images from the flyby, released yesterday, already revealed some surprises, including mountains on Pluto and canyons on Charon.

The newest image was captured by New Horizons when it was about 79,000 kilometres from Charon, about 1½ hours before its closest approach to Pluto this past Tuesday.

That was the day New Horizons became the first spacecraft to make a flyby of Pluto and its moons, capturing 1,600 images in the process.

It will take 16 months for the spacecraft, which is currently about 4.8 billion kilometres from Earth, to send all its images and data back to Earth.

Corrections

  • The strange feature on Pluto's largest moon, Charon, looks to be about 50 kilometres wide, not 50 metres as stated in a previous version of the story.
    Jul 16, 2015 4:30 PM ET

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