The night descends on Charon, the largest satellite of Pluto

The night descends on Charon, the largest satellite of Pluto

In the recently published photograph, Charon, which is Pluto’s largest companion, is covered in darkness. Only a tiny part is illuminated by the distant Sun.

NASA's New Horizons space station captured this image on July 17, 2015, 3 days after it made a historic flight near Pluto. This close encounter was only 12550 kilometers away from the surface of Pluto. On the other hand, according to NASA experts, the image of the dark Charon was taken from a distance of 3, 1 million kilometers.

The image description, published on January 22, 2016, indicates that the night landscape of Charon is still barely visible due to the light, gently reflected from Pluto, just as the light reflected from the Earth illuminates our natural satellite at the new moon.

Researchers working on the New Horizons project use this and a similar image to map the Charon areas that were not visible during the passage. Here you can see the South Pole of Charon (in the upper part of the image), on which the polar night came in 1989, and which will last until 2107. During this long winter, the temperature at the pole drops to almost absolute zero. With a diameter of about 1,207 kilometers, Charon is more than half the size of Pluto itself. Other satellites of this dwarf planet - Nyx, Hydra, Kerber and Styx - are tiny compared to him. For example, Nikta and Hydra have only 54 km and 43 km, respectively, in their greatest dimension, while the Styx and Kerber are even smaller.

The mission of the interplanetary station “New Horizons”, worth 720 million US dollars, was launched ten years ago, in January 2006. The station is currently approaching a small 2014 MU69 object, located at a distance of 1.6 billion kilometers behind Pluto. It is expected that she will fly near him in January 2019.

The 2014 MU69 study will be carried out if NASA finances the program and continues the station's mission. “New Horizons” also still sends data and images to Earth, collected during the flight of Pluto in July 2015. According to the team working on the project, the data will be fully transferred by the autumn of 2016.

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