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Charon, an ocean world?

19 Feb 2016, 17:30 UTC
Charon, an ocean world?
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Pluto's moon Charon may have had an ocean.The New Horizons probe has blown the science world away by revealing Pluto, in all its cold-but-strangely-active strangeness, to us. But Pluto wasn't the only world New Horizons visited that day: The dwarf planet has five moons and the largest of them, Charon, is turning out to be a fascinating little critter in its own right. The little moon sports all kinds of weird features: Craters that have dug into an ammonia rich layer, a strange dark polar cap, and gigantic chasms and tectonic features to point out just a few. Above: A simulated fly by of Charon, showing the vast network of chasms and the dark polar cap. Courtesy of IO9.Now a picture is starting to form for researchers studying the New Horizons data on Charon. The little moon may well once have had a subsurface ocean, like the moons Europa and Enceladus. The evidence comes from the network of fractures and faults that scar the Charon's surface: One possible explanation for them is that as an interior ocean froze it expanded (because water expands when it freezes), and cracked the outer shell of the moon apart. Other lines of evidence point towards ...

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