Erin Fourie

Contest: 2019-20

Erin Fourie

School: Fish Hoek High School,

Grade: 8

City: Cape Town

Topic: Charon


Charon, the largest of Pluto’s five moons was discovered in 1978 by astronomer James Christy who observed that the photos of Pluto were oddly elongated. The frigid surface of Charon is covered with nitrogen ice and methane, even though the main mass is made up of mostly ice it is speculated that it may have a rocky core. The possibilities of life on this icy waste land is low considering its distance from the sun, however recent studies have raised the question of living organisms on Charon.

Artist's view of New Horizon and Charon
​The reason I chose Charon as a viable option for further investigation was because we know so little about it. Sending a robotic space craft to this moon will not only provide new information about it, such as the canyon that stretches along the equator and was thought to have been the remains of a water ice ocean that lay just beneath the surface. If NASA were to send a robotic space craft to Charon, based on research, I think we may find that the ice cliffs on Charon have the possibility of holding living organisms. Much like our own moon, Charon and Pluto are stuck in a mutual tidal lock. However, the obstacles we passed to see the other side of the moon could be done again, if NASA could send a space probe around the dark side of Charon, we would have tons of new researchable information which would take us a step further in exploring our universe. In the chances that this moon were to be visited, taking samples of the terrain and ice would benefit us tremendously, finding out what our local solar system planets are made of and what the core consists of could give us hints as to how it orbits and moves, or even if it could harbor life. It is thought to be that Charon is home to ice volcanoes, in circumstances such as this, Charon is classified to be one of the more exciting moons of Pluto. It could, in theory, hold micro bacteria and other living substances.

I think the thing that excites me most about Charon is the pure size of it. If it wasn’t orbiting Pluto it would be classified as its own dwarf planet. In fact, Charon is so big that it pulls on Pluto making it wobble slightly. Since we’ve never actually landed on Charon it’s hard to say what lies beneath the surface of this far away land, but in reality we know so little about the universe we live in, who’s to say there isn’t a huge secret hiding under the ice of this barren and frozen moon?

Charon would be a great candidate for further exploration and I’m excited to see where it will take us in the future. Space may be big, dark and scary but with science and the knowledge we have lighting our way its only a matter of time before we take our next step in bettering our understanding of this universe we call home."

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