There's a Dark "Anti-Polar Cap" on Pluto's Moon Charon

The latest batch of pics from the New Horizons spacecraft has revealed a previously unseen surface feature on Charon, a prominent dark splotch located at one of its poles.

The new image of Charon was captured on June 18 at a distance of 31,500,000 miles (50,700,000 km). It shows significant surface details, including the mysterious dark spot.


The image on the left is the original image taken by New Horizons’ LORRI camera. The image on the right was sharpened by a process called deconvolution. NASA says this process can introduce visual artifacts, or “false” details, so the spot will have to be confirmed in future once higher resolution images come in.

Pluto’s surface details are also increasingly coming into focus.


“This system is just amazing,” noted New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern in a statement. “The science team is just ecstatic with what we see on Pluto’s close approach hemisphere: Every terrain type we see on the planet—including both the brightest and darkest surface areas—are represented there, it’s a wonderland!”

“And about Charon—wow—I don’t think anyone expected Charon to reveal a mystery like dark terrains at its pole,” he continued. “Who ordered that?”


New Horizons will make its historic flyby of the Pluto-Charon system on July 14, 2015.


Image: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute.


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