Astronomers have a new hypothesis about the color of one of the farthest Moons in the Solar System.

Credit image: NASA
Credit image: NASA

Article by: Andacs Robert Eugen, on 23 June 2022, at 02:36 am Los Angeles time

Researchers suspect the unusual color of one of the farthest moons in the solar system.

It's about the Moon of the dwarf planet Pluto, Charon.

Initially, scientists suspected that the iron-colored stain (nicknamed Mordor Macula) was methane captured from Pluto's surface, its red color being the result of slow exposure to ultraviolet sunlight. It was an ingenious idea that could not wait to be tested.

Now, a combination of experimental models and laboratory tests showed that these early hypotheses were not too far from the truth, with little change. The research adds surprising new details to our understanding of the relationship between Pluto and Charon, suggesting that more factors determine the color of the moon than is seen at first glance.

Launched in 2006, NASA's New Horizons interplanetary spacecraft provided researchers with an unprecedented image of the Pluto-Charon planetary system, more than 5 billion kilometers from the Sun.

With these advanced tools at hand, astronomers have begun to investigate even more thoroughly, because, in the frozen "suburbs" of the Solar System, red is much more likely to indicate the presence of a diverse group of compounds. Pluto's near-pink glow has been the subject of study for decades. However, the discovery of a rusty hue at one of the poles of its moon was a real surprise.

It was assumed that the methane on Pluto could reach its orbital moon. But the exact moment needed for the gas to deposit and freeze in such a diffuse spot has always been a point that has remained quite indefinite.

Part of the problem is the contradiction between Charon's faint gravity and the cold light of the distant sun that warms its surface. No matter how weak it may be, it may be enough to melt the ice and bring the methane back to the surface.

In short, Charon's "red spot" could be much more complex than the researchers thought, and subsequent laboratory tests and experimental models could help strengthen this hypothesis.

Be the first to read what's new from space!