Charon is the largest moon of the dwarf planet Pluto. James W. Christy of the United States Naval Observatory is credited with its discovery on July 2, 1978. NASA hopes to obtain more extensive images of Charon and other bodies in the Pluto system with its first extensive deep-space mission to the Pluto system, New Horizons.
Orbital and rotational characteristics
Charon is locked into a resonating orbit with its primary, Pluto. Its axis is not tilted, and its sidereal month and day are the same length; therefore, like the Moon of Earth, Charon always presents the same face toward Pluto. Insofar as observations to date have determined, Charon's orbit is perfectly circular and in the same plane as is Pluto's equator.
Note, however, that while Charon's revolution and rotation are technically prograde with respect to Pluto's own rotation, they are retrograde with respect to the Sun. This is because Pluto's own rotation is retrograde with respect to its own orbit.
The value for the orbital radius of Charon is the radius from the barycenter, not the center of Pluto. Charon keeps a distance of 19,571 km from the center of Pluto. The difference between the two values is greater than the radius of Pluto as a body. So the barycenter lies above the surface of Pluto.
Pluto and Charon make a wide binary, one of hundreds in the Kuiper Belt. Wide binaries defy uniformitarian explanation. How could two bodies, one less than ten times the mass of the other, fall into an almost perfectly circular orbit around a common barycenter?
Note the relative lack of craters on Charon. In conventional terms this makes Charon "young." But Charon also has cliffs, chasms, and a deep canyon (visible in the northeast corner of the primary image). These changes bespeak tidal fracturing. The lack of bombardment is actually in keeping with Charon residing in the Kuiper Belt, the objects of which are relatively spread out.
Charon's color turns out to be closer to that of Pluto than originally supposed. Conventional scientists attribute this mud color, or rust color, to tholins ("muddy stuff"). These compounds allegedly formed from solar ultraviolet radiation acting on an atmosphere containing methane, nitrogen, and ammonia. The problem: no instrument has ever detected a measurable atmosphere on Charon, though at least one team speculates that Charon swims within the massive atmosphere of Pluto.
The simpler explanation: the color comes from iron rust, and formed in the inner solar system before Charon and Pluto were ejected into the outer solar system.
Young ice on Charon
There seems to be conclusive evidence for young ice on Charon. Jason Cook of Arizona State University and his team of scientists have studied an icy coating on Charon. These researchers have found that the ice has crystalline structures, indicating that it has not been there for millions of years. Cosmic radiation from the Sun would break down the crystalline structures, so the ice must be younger that 100,000 years old.
There are two possible explanations for this observation. Either the ice was there at the time Charon was formed and the moon is less than 100,000 years old or the ice was formed by a more recent process and gives no indication of its age.
In order to fit the most widely believed evolutionary cosmologies, these researchers must justify the existence of young ice by theorizing a recent process. They propose that there is cryovolcanism over practically all the three million square mile surface of Charon.
Two other moons in the Solar System (Enceladus and Europa) have evidence of cryovolcanism along fault lines caused by “tidal squeezing” from Saturn and Jupiter respectively. Charon is not subjected to tidal forces from Pluto and the theorized cryovolcanism covers a greater area than this process would explain. Additionally, there are no observed geysers on Charon producing global ice.
Cook and his team avoid this objection by supposing that there is radioactive material causing heating of subsurface water and ammonia, producing many small ice geysers that are too small to be seen from Earth.
If the cosmology of creation science is applied to this observation, one would expect to see young ice whether it formed at the same time as Charon or whether it was formed by more recent processes. The explanation proposed by Cook, on the other hand, seems contrived as it progresses through layers of increasingly more complex and less verifiable theories.The 2015 arrival of the New Horizons probe at Pluto will perhaps elucidate this argument by using its impressive suite of instruments to produce new evidence. Based on the reaction that we have seen to the evidence so far, we can safely say with Abraham,
If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead. Luke 16:31
This problem of young ice on Charon is only the tip of the iceberg (pardon the pun.) So far, astronomers have discovered over 1000 Trans-Neptunian Objects (TNOs) with a large number having young ice on the surface. The only observed geyser is the one spewing forth new theories of those seeking the magical shoe horn that will fit young surface ice on TNOs into the extant evolutionary cosmology.
Observation and Exploration
On January 19, 2006, the Visiting mission::New Horizons mission was launched. Pluto and its moons are its prime target, but mission planners are considering plans to study at least one other Kuiper belt object.
- Buie MW et al., "Orbits and photometry of Pluto's satellites, Charon, S/2005 P1 and S/2005 P2," Astro. J. 132:290-298, 2006 July. Accessed 13 July 2015.
- Redd NT, "Pluto is larger than thought, has ice cap, NASA probe reveals." Space.com, 13 July 2015. Accessed 13 July 2015.
- Cryovolcanism by Wikipedia
- Jenner, Lynn. "NASA - New Horizons." NASA, October 9, 2007. Accessed July 3, 2008.
- Charon by Wikipedia
- Hamilton, Calvin J. "Entry for 'Charon'." Views of the Solar System, 2005. Accessed January 22, 2008.
- Entry for 'Pluto and Charon'." Solar System Exploration pages, NASA. Accessed January 22, 2008.