Pluto's Biggest Moon Is A Beautiful, Scarred Wonder

NASA has published a new photo giving us a startlingly clear look at Pluto's biggest moon, Charon. It shows many battle wounds, pocked with impact craters and traced over with deep grooves. Those scars show a history, says NASA, one that is "surprisingly complex and violent." Images were taken by the space agency's New Horizons spacecraft, and they were then combined together and the color was enhanced. The final result is a high resolution photo full of distinct features.

Charon looks somewhat similar to Pluto, but is only half its diameter; the moon was expected to be boring, according to NASA, but that didn't turn out true. Instead, Charon was found to have many distinct features, including landslides and mountains, canyons, and, obviously, a multi-colored surfaced. The reddish part is the moon's polar region, which is referred to as Mordor Macula.

Said researcher Ross Beyer, "We thought the probability of seeing such interesting features on this satellite of a world at the far edge of our solar system was low, but I couldn't be more delighted with what we see."

The images show the portion of Charon facing Pluto, and were taken on July 14; NASA didn't receive the images back from New Horizons until September 21, however. The canyon system visible on the moon spans in excess of 1,000 miles, and is expected to wrap around to the other (unseen) side of the moon. It is twice as deep as the Grand Canyon and four times as long.