Discovery suggests moon once had liquid water below its surface.
The latest data collected from NASA’s fly-by spacecraft, New Horizons, is suggesting the one of Pluto’s moons, Charon, may once have contained a large subsurface ocean, according to a Washington Post report.
The new discovery could be the cause of the cracks noted on the moon’s surface as a possible liquid ocean froze and and expanded. Scientists explain by saying the water ice on the moon’s surface was at some point in the early history of the body, kept warm by the internal heat of the moon. They suspect it was possible that at least some portion of that ice could have melted to form a liquid ocean below the surface.
As the moon’s core began to cool, the water re-froze rock solid and the expansion of the water ice caused strains on the moons rock formations and made the cracks that were visible in the fly-by.
Charon’ surface doesn’t appear the same as our moon, with several different types of surface formations instead of the familiar crater-pocked surface of our own moon. This suggests to scientists that there have been fairly recent geological processes taking place on Charon. Already discovered is a tremendous-sized canyon, about four times as long as the Grand Canyon and four times as deep as well.
And Charon is different from most planet’s moons in that it is almost half the size of the planet it orbits. Some may argue that the two bodies are actually spinning around a common point between them, facing each other, rather than one orbiting the other.
Of course, any remnants of a liquid ocean on Charon have been frozen for eons, but conditions like those found on Charon that may be found on other moons closer to us, may be the best places to look for signs of microbial life. Many scientists today are anticipating new discoveries on moons like Europa, Ganymede, and Enceladus and others, and this new discovery on Charon continues to give hope of one day finding signs of life on other worlds.