On October 1, 2015 images from NASA’s New Horizons probe, inserted Charon into our consciousness. The solar system gained dimension, suddenly Pluto’s neighborhood included Charon, a moon half the diameter of Pluto and largest moon relative to its planet in our solar system. Insignificant little Pluto was part of a galactic community.
New Horizons is to Pluto as Cassini is to Saturn – unassuming civil servants devoid of ulterior motive, diligent observers dedicated to truth without judgement or personal agendas. New Horizons introduced Pluto with unbiased observance, an irrefutable glimpse into cosmic reality. Part of this reality is Charon.
NASA’s New Horizons captured this high-resolution enhanced color view of Charon just before the spacecraft’s closest approach on July 14, 2015. The image combines blue, red and infrared images taken by the spacecraft’s Ralph/Multispectral Visual Imaging Camera (MVIC); the colors are processed to best highlight the variation of surface properties across Charon. Charon’s color palette is not as diverse as Pluto’s; most striking is the reddish north (top) polar region, informally named Mordor Macula. Charon is 754 miles (1,214 kilometers) across; this image resolves details as small as 1.8 miles (2.9 kilometers). Image credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI
This composite of enhanced color images of Pluto (lower right) and Charon (upper left), was taken by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft as it passed through the Pluto system on July 14, 2015. This image highlights the striking differences between Pluto and Charon. The color and brightness of both Pluto and Charon have been processed identically to allow direct comparison of their surface properties, and to highlight the similarity between Charon’s polar red terrain and Pluto’s equatorial red terrain. Pluto and Charon are shown with approximately correct relative sizes, but their true separation is not to scale. The image combines blue, red and infrared images taken by the spacecraft’s Ralph/Multispectral Visual Imaging Camera (MVIC). Image credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI