Julia Hutto

Julia Hutto

Grade: 11

School: Patrick F. Taylor Science and Technology Academy

Teacher: Cheryl Bordelon

City: Avondale, Louisiana

Topic: Charon

"Charon, the moon of Pluto, is the one that should be explored further. There are many things that make Charon unique, including its relative size to Pluto, tidal locking, and possible remains of an ocean. Charon has just under the surface area of the United States and is just under half the size of Pluto. Because of its relative size to the dwarf planet, it is sometimes called a double dwarf planet system. The size of Charon also influences the motion of Pluto’s other moons with its gravity, causing them to orbit chaotically. The time that Charon takes to rotate around Pluto is the same amount of time it takes Pluto to rotate one around its axis. This causes Charon to never set in Pluto’s sky, which is very rare considering its occurrence in the solar system.

Artist's view of New Horizon and Charon
​Pluto has only been explored once, by the New Horizons spacecraft in 2015. This mission concluded that Pluto’s system was more complex than was expected. Further missions to the planet, and especially to its moon Charon, could return even more unexpected information. Charon shows clues that it could have had a water ocean in the distant past, hinting at possible signs of an environment that could or could have harbored life. Looking for signs of life and learning what happened to other planets that once supported life could help us to prevent the Earth from going down the same path. Though it unlikely that Charon once harbored life because of its low temperatures caused by its distance from the sun, there is always the possibility that nature might surprise us.

Charon could also hold clues to what happened at the beginning of our universe and the beginning of our solar system. Every piece of new information could lead to a better understanding of what happened before we were here. A new understanding of what happened at the beginning could also lead to a new understanding of what will happen at the end and why we should continue to explore deeper and deeper into the galaxy we inhabit. No matter what we find on Charon, it will open new scientific doors that were previously closed and lead us to a deeper understanding of ourselves and the planets we share a sun with."

Solar System News