Pluto’s Charon Moon Geology Is Similar To Earth’s: Data Obtained From New Horizons Spacecraft Indicate It

First Posted: Jan 28, 2017 05:46 AM EST

The New Horizons spacecraft provided a glimpse of the Charon moon when it made a flyby of Pluto and its largest moon Charon in July 2015. The data sent by the spacecraft were carefully analyzed by Ross Beyer and his team. They found that geological events of the moon were like Earth's plate tectonics.

Earth's geological events are based on the movement of its tectonic plates -- they move, crash and collide onto one another. On the other hand, Charon has a freezing ice core, which expands and makes cracks of the surface of the moon.

Researchers observed the presence of fissures on the surface of Charon moon, which looked similar to the rift valleys present on the planet Earth. They also found that few blocks of the moon were depressed and they were surrounded by what looked like faults. These regions were represented as graben or scraps, which are formed after one tectonic plate moves vertically with respect to the neighboring plates, Scientific American reported.

"On Earth, where you have plate tectonics, some plates move apart, but they must be colliding in other places, because the Earth is a sphere." On the other hand, "on Charon, we only saw the extensional features. As if the only thing we are seeing is pieces of crust moving away from each other," Beyer said.

Since the initial discovery of Charon, New Horizons spacecraft has provided unprecedented information regarding Pluto and its moon. Now the spacecraft is all set for its next adventure, which will be the 2014 MU69, present in the Kuiper Belt. The belt is said to be present on the outer rim of the Solar System, and it is known to be abundantly filled with millions of small sized icy rocks that have not been explored yet, Times of India reported.

It is expected that flyby of 2014 MU69 will commence in January 2019. Kelsi Singer, from the New Horizons team, said that the 2014 MU69 "has a special kind of orbit that makes it possibly a type of object that is primordial and left over from early solar system formation." Therefore, "we think that we'll be able to look at what the building blocks of the solar system were like by going to this special object that has a special orbit."

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