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Does Pluto Have a Giant Crater?

Posted July 01, 2015 8:36 AM by Bayes

New Horizons

It's an exciting time for space enthusiasts. The NASA probe, New Horizons, is just two weeks from its July 14th flyby of Pluto. Everyday new images arrive revealing more details of Pluto and its moons Charon, Nix, Hydra, Styx, and Kerberos (Nod to CR4 Member G.K. for possibly naming this moon). The images are already starting to surprise scientists. Charon appears to have a surprisingly dark pole. Pluto's moons* seem to tumble about chaotically. *Note - Pluto and Charon have more of a binary dwarf-planet arrangement than a traditional planet-moon arrangement. The other moons orbit the center of gravity of the Pluto-Charon binary (see image below). The center of gravity of the Pluto-Charon system is outside of the surface of Pluto.

The last month the ever improving images of Pluto have seemed...off. The dwarf-planet didn't seem to be completely round. At first scientists explained it was an optical illusion caused by the distance and the deconvolution method used to improve the images taken by LORRI on New Horizons. However, as the space probe gets closer and closer to Pluto, and the images sent back to us get better and better, it's starting to look like Pluto may have a gigantic crater that does indeed distort it's shape.

We wont have to wait long to find out for sure. In two weeks New Horizons will get as closer than 10,000 km to Pluto. Starting July 11th, the surfaces of Pluto and Charon will begin being mapped at 40 km (25 mile) resolution! Soon we will know for sure if the giant crater is real or some weird image processing effect. It sure looks real though in that June 29th image!

Approaching Pluto (LORRI Images)

Pluto-Charon Binary System

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#1

Re: Does Pluto Have a Giant Crater?

07/01/2015 1:13 PM

For being a minor planet, Pluto sure has a lot of moons! Maybe all the satellites and the big crater (if it is such) are the result of a collision event sometime in the past.

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#2

Re: Does Pluto Have a Giant Crater?

07/01/2015 1:48 PM

from this image, it looks like Pluto was unhappy to learn that it was demoted from planet status

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#3
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Re: Does Pluto Have a Giant Crater?

07/01/2015 8:37 PM

So we will be surprised to see that there is live on Pluto!

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#4
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Re: Does Pluto Have a Giant Crater?

07/02/2015 2:30 AM

Yes, the image on the right does look like a huge lemon.

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#5

Re: Does Pluto Have a Giant Crater?

07/20/2015 5:09 AM

Roger, Pluto was found to have a tail!

http://www.businessinsider.com.au/pluto-dwarf-planet-ion-gas-tail-nasa-new-horizons-2015-7

I guess this is more exciting because to answer the other questions Pluto is also very much devoid of craters!

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#6
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Re: Does Pluto Have a Giant Crater?

07/20/2015 5:27 AM

Says who ? This body is closer to the Kuiper belt (source of millions of asteroids) than our moon, Earth, or other planets, which all have craters. In fact, maybe that's why Pluto is so far out from the sun (took a massive strike whilst in the near solar system).

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#8
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Re: Does Pluto Have a Giant Crater?

07/20/2015 11:53 PM

Oh common don't you read CR4?

Fred says.

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#7
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Re: Does Pluto Have a Giant Crater?

07/20/2015 7:51 AM

Yeah, already we are learning so much from New Horizons about Pluto and Charon. I think it's pretty cool that it has a tail. Also, Pluto and Charon seem to be geologically active. That's exciting! There is a chance Pluto hosts a giant ocean under it's surface. New Horizons spotted potential geysers on its surface-

http://news.sciencemag.org/space/2015/07/potential-geysers-spotted-pluto

What's interesting is that since Pluto has plenty of organic molecules, and liquid water under the surface, it makes it a candidate for life! Future missions may be in the cards!

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#9
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Re: Does Pluto Have a Giant Crater?

07/20/2015 11:54 PM

Yes see here!

Now do not tell me I did not tell you this before!

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