Astronomy Picture of the Day

Charon Flyover from New Horizons
Video Credit: NASA, JHUAPL, SwRI, P. Schenk & J. Blackwell (LPI); Music: Juicy by ALBIS

Explanation: What if you could fly over Pluto’s moon Charon — what might you see? The New Horizons spacecraft did just this in 2015 July as it zipped past Pluto and Charon with cameras blazing. The images recorded allowed for a digital reconstruction of much of Charon‘s surface, further enabling the creation of fictitious flights over Charon created from this data. One such fanciful, minute-long, time-lapse video is shown here with vertical heights and colors of surface features digitally enhanced. Your journey begins over a wide chasm that divides different types of Charon’s landscapes, a chasm that might have formed when Charon froze through. You soon turn north and fly over a colorful depression dubbed Mordor that, one hypothesis holds, is an unusual remnant from an ancient impact. Your voyage continues over an alien landscape rich with never-before-seen craters, mountains, and crevices. The robotic New Horizons spacecraft has now been targeted at Kuiper Belt object 2014 MU 69, which it should zoom past on New Year’s Day 2019.

Tomorrow’s picture: stars versus stardust

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