Charon, Pluto’s natural satellite, has a crimson north pole. For years, astronomers have wondered what caused the moon’s rust-tinged north pole to be shattered by New Horizons during its flyby in 2015.
The iron-colored smudge was previously thought to be methane collected off Pluto’s surface and baked in the Sun’s ultraviolet rays, resulting in its red hue. An interesting concept begged to be put to the test.
Suppositions made in the early stages of this project were not far off the mark, but with a twist. This study sheds light on Pluto’s and Charon’s close relationship, showing that the moon’s hue has more to it than first seems.
Methane emitted by Pluto was thought to be capable of drifting to its moon. As a result, exact timing was always a sticking point when it came to getting the gas to settle and freeze into this characteristically dispersed smear.
The battle between Charon’s feeble gravity and the far-off Sun’s cool light that warmed its ground is part of the issue. It didn’t matter how weak it was, the spring light had the power to dissolve the methane frost and flush it from the landscape.
SwRI researchers studied the see-sawing movement of the most inclined planet system to establish what would really happen. They discovered that spring’s explosive nature could be the key to the stain.
Over a few years, the northern hemisphere would begin to warm up significantly, as the moon’s 248-year journey around the sun would be a mere flash in the eye. One side of the pole would be covered with micron-thick methane frost while the other was about to ice over. According to simulations, the fast mobility of frozen methane would be insufficient to absorb enough Lyman-alpha to produce a tholin.
Scientists also looked at the hydrocarbon cousin methane, ethane. Charon’s crimson top may be a result of ethane being converted into reddish deposits by exposure to the solar wind. The research conducted by Raut and his colleagues showed that methane may be converted to ethane at the poles using data from laboratory trials. There was one snag, however. Ethane will not convert into a crimson sludge when exposed to Lyman-alpha radiation.
However, hydrocarbons are not ruled out. Solar particles flowing over a longer amount of time might still produce chains of hydrocarbons long enough to give Charon its crimson crown. The theory that Charon’s rouge stain is significantly more intricate than we previously knew may be strengthened with more laboratory research and modeling.
Tiesha loves to share her passion for everything that’s beautiful in this world. Apart from writing on her beauty blog and running her own beauty channel on Youtube, she also enjoys traveling and photography. Tiesha covers various stories on the website.