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Serenity Chasma: A Window to Charon and its Past

19 Feb 2016, 19:06 UTC
Serenity Chasma: A Window to Charon and its Past
(200 words excerpt, click title or image to see full post)

Charon Valley May Tell a Tale of Primordial Oceans
The side of Charon viewed by the passing New Horizons spacecraft in July 2015 shows a system of “pull apart” tectonic faults, which look like ridges, scarps and valleys—the latter sometimes reaching more than 4 miles (6.5 kilometers) deep. Courtesy New Horizons mission/JHU/APL.
I have to say, the New Horizons mission is really the planetary exploration gift that keeps on giving! Every week the mission team drops some more amazing science on us. This week, the scientists are sharing an image with us that may be evidence of an ancient ocean on Pluto’s largest moon (and orbital companion) Charon. It’s a valley on the icy surface called Serenity Chasma.
Serenity appears to be a tectonic fault that was formed when something pulled the surface apart. You see similar places on Earth, where the crust cracked open and formed a valley or a scarp. On Charon, these formed when the surface cracked as the subsurface part of the moon expanded as it froze. To understand this, take a look at Charon’s structure. Its upper layer is mostly water ice. When this moon was a young’un, it was still being heated from within ...

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