NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft has sent incredible images of Pluto’s largest moon Charon back to Earth.
The latest images reveal the moon’s complex and violent history, according to NASA. “Many New Horizons scientists expected Charon to be a monotonous, crater-battered world; instead, they’re finding a landscape covered with mountains, canyons, landslides, surface-color variations and more,” explained the space agency, in a statement.
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The high-resolution images, which were taken on July 14 and transmitted to Earth on Sept. 21, reveal a belt of fractures and canyons just north of the moon’s equator. Four times as long as the Grand Canyon, and twice as deep in places, the faults and canyons indicate a titanic geological upheaval in Charon’s past, according to NASA.
“It looks like the entire crust of Charon has been split open,” said John Spencer, deputy lead for New Horizons Geology, Geophysics and Imaging (GGI) at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, in the statement.
Last month NASA released dramatic images from New Horizons’ historic flyby of Pluto, which show icy mountains, fog, and the dwarf planet’s landscape dramatically backlit by the sun.
Launched in 2006, New Horizons passed by Jupiter in 2007 on its journey to Pluto. The fastest spacecraft ever, the probe traveled at 30,000 mph on its epic trip.