Aditya Bajoria

Aditya Bajoria

Grade: 11

School: Singapore International School

Topic: Charon

"Extra-terrestrial life is often linked to the existence of Liposome based life. While this statement is rooted in our experience in quest for life and suggests that life outside the circumstellar habitable zone is nearly impossible, there is a small ray of hope in the existence of “azotosome” or nitrogen body. Hypothesized by James Stevenson of Connell University for the existence of life on Titan, this same lifeform can also exist on Charon.

Artist's view of New Horizon and Charon
​Charon, a moon of Pluto, exhibits several unique properties, with prominent ones being the existence of water as well as ammonia hydrate crystals at the surface. This is mind-boggling as generally water crystals below the temperature of -195˚ C and in the presence of Cosmic waves, turn into an amorphous state. The existence of a mechanism which realigns or produces fresh crystal sparks several hypotheses. The most renowned proposition regarding the replenishment of crystals is the presence of cryogesers. The existence of these geysers depicts the presence of an ocean of water and ammonia below the surface of the satellite. This is a fascinating conclusion to reach as it might provide water for fostering life, but is also supported by the geology of the moon. The fault lines on Charon running close to the equator are suspected of forming due to the expansion of water when becoming ice, causing the mantle to push on the crust and create fault lines and water spewing geysers.

Cryogeysers can spew liquid as well as gaseous water, but since Charon has no detectable atmosphere, I speculate the existence of liquid water on the surface for brief moments. The presence of Tholins, ammonia, and water crystals on the north pole of Charon show the possible existence of azotosomes. These cells can survive up to temperatures of -290˚C, making them ideal for Charon. Apart from this, the Tholins themselves can also foster life when in contact with water, leading me to believe in their being a higher possibility of life existing there.

The fact that Pluto and Charon are tidally locked also peaks my interest as the photographed side of the moon always faces Pluto, indicating that this side would get less sunlight compared to the other. This very positively indicates that there can be many unique features on the unseen part of Charon and even possibly liquid water on the surface due to the increased amount of sunlight. These new features are waiting to be discovered and may help man further unravel secrets about the planetary system furthest from the sun.

Upon our return to Charon, I hope we find a liquid mantle sustained by the hot core; evidence for the existence of cyrogesers; a growing atmosphere and mountainous structures depicting tectonic compressions. To help us detect all this, I would additionally equip the satellite with highly sensitive Seismographs to detect P-waves and S-waves and help determine the nature of the moon interiors, as well as a Microwave Radiometer and ROSA to help gain detail on the moon atmosphere."

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