HomeAstronomy & SpaceA new explanation for the reddish north pole of Pluto's moon Charon

A new explanation for the reddish north pole of Pluto’s moon Charon

Purdue University researchers have developed a new theory to explain why Pluto’s moon Charon has a reddish north pole. Stephanie Menten, Michael Sori, and Ali Bramson describe their study of the reddish surfaces of many icy objects in the Kuiper Belt and how they might relate to Charon’s reddish pole in a paper published in the journal Nature Communications.

Previous research has revealed that many icy objects in the Kuiper belt are partially or completely covered in reddish brown material. Prior research has also revealed that the material is a type of tholin—compounds formed when organic chemicals are exposed to radiation. However, this has raised the question of where the organic compounds may have originated. The researchers hypothesise that it is caused by methane released by cryovolcanoes in this new effort.

To put their theory to the test, the researchers looked to Pluto’s moon Charon, which has tholin covering its north pole. Previous research suggests that gases escaping from Pluto are to blame for the reddish pole. However, previous research has revealed that the moon was once covered in a liquid ocean containing a variety of materials, including methane.

The methane would have become trapped in the ice as the ocean froze, according to the researchers. They also note that as the water became pressurised, cracks formed, resulting in occasional eruptions. They believe that such cryovolcanic eruptions may have released some methane gas. And if some of that methane gas made it all the way to the north pole, it would have frozen and fallen to the ground. If it fell to the surface, it would have been exposed to millions of years of solar radiation, turning it red.

The researchers created simulations of methane molecules drifting around in the Charon atmosphere, calculating how much methane could have escaped and how much might have made it to the north pole under such a scenario. They discovered that approximately 1000 billion metric tonnes of the gas could have made it to the northern pole—enough to form a red cap.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Latest Science News Articles - PhysicsAlert.com

explore more