NASA releases image featuring Charon cloaked in darkness

NASA releases image featuring Charon cloaked in darkness

An image captured by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft depicts Pluto’s largest and innermost moon Charon cloaked in darkness, with merely a tiny sliver lit up by the distant Sun.

The newly released image was captured by the New Horizons on 17th of July last year, around three days after the spacecraft’s historic flyby of the icy world. That encounter brought the spacecraft as close to Pluto as 7,800 miles (12,550 kilometers).

The night-side view of Charon was captured from a distance of around 1.9 million miles or 3.1 million kilometers. But, the moon’s nighttime landscapes were faintly visible in light softly reflected off Pluto. Scientists estimated that Charon’s South Pole will remain in dark until 2107.

NASA scientists said in a statement, “This includes Charon’s south pole — toward the top of this image — which entered polar night in 1989 and will not see sunlight again until 2107. Charon's polar temperatures drop to near absolute zero during this long winter.”

With a diameter of around 753 miles, Charon is the biggest moon of Pluto. It is more than half as wide as its host planet itself. The distant dwarf planet has five known moons, including Nix, Hydra, Kerberos and Styx. Hydra is just 27 miles in its longest direction.

The New Horizons mission was launched in January 2006 to probe Pluto. Currently, it is zooming toward a potential target called 2014 MU69, a small space rock that lies around one billion miles beyond Pluto.