PIA20375: Charon's Night Side
 Target Name:  Pluto
 Is a satellite of:  Sol (our sun)
 Mission:  New Horizons
 Spacecraft:  New Horizons
 Instrument:  LORRI
 Product Size:  -1 x -1 pixels (w x h)
 Produced By:  Johns Hopkins University/APL
 Full-Res TIFF:  PIA20375.tif (603.1 kB)
 Full-Res JPEG:  PIA20375.jpg (65.27 kB)

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Original Caption Released with Image:

After its close approach to Pluto in July 2015, NASA's New Horizons spacecraft snapped this hauntingly beautiful image of the night side of Pluto's largest moon, Charon.

Only an imager on the far side of Pluto could catch such a view, with a bright, thin sliver of Charon near the lower left illuminated by the sun. Night has fallen over the rest of this side of Charon, yet despite the lack of sunlight over most of the surface, Charon's nighttime landscapes are still faintly visible by light softly reflected off Pluto, just as "Earthshine" lights up a new moon each month. Charon is 750 miles (1,214 kilometers) in diameter, approximately as wide as Texas.

Scientists on the New Horizons team are using this and similar images to map portions of Charon otherwise not visible during the flyby. This includes Charon's south pole toward the top of this image -- which entered polar night in 1989 and will not see sunlight again until 2107. Charon's polar temperatures drop to near absolute zero during this long winter.

This combination of 16 one-second exposures was taken by New Horizons' Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) at 2:30 UT on July 17, 2015, nearly three days after closest approach to Pluto and Charon, from a range of 1.9 million miles (3.1 million kilometers).

The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, designed, built, and operates the New Horizons spacecraft, and manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate. The Southwest Research Institute, based in San Antonio, leads the science team, payload operations and encounter science planning. New Horizons is part of the New Frontiers Program managed by NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

Image Credit:
NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

Image Addition Date:
2016-01-29