Los científicos identifican la posible fuente de Crimson Cap en la luna más grande de Plutón, Caronte

Los científicos del Southwest Analysis Institute combinaron datos de la misión New Horizons de la NASA con nuevos experimentos de laboratorio y modelos exosféricos para revelar la composición possible del casquete rojo en la luna Caronte de Plutón y cómo se pudo haber formado. Nuevos hallazgos sugieren que las drásticas oleadas estacionales en la delgada atmósfera de Caronte combinadas con la luz que descompone el gel de metano condensado podrían ser clave para comprender los orígenes de las zonas polares rojas de Caronte. Crédito: Cortesía de NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/SwRI

La investigación combinó datos de naves espaciales con nuevos experimentos de laboratorio, modelos de[{” attribute=””>Pluto’s largest moon.

Southwest Analysis Institute scientists mixed information from NASA’s New Horizons mission with novel laboratory experiments and exospheric modeling to disclose the possible composition of the pink cap on Pluto’s moon Charon and the way it could have shaped. This primary-ever description of Charon’s dynamic methane ambiance utilizing new experimental information offers a captivating glimpse into the origins of this moon’s pink spot as described in two latest papers.

Charon is the most important of Pluto’s moons. At half the dimensions of Pluto, it’s the largest identified satellite tv for pc relative to its guardian physique. Charon orbits Pluto each 6.four Earth days. James Christy and Robert Harrington found Charon in 1978 on the U.S. Naval Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona.

“Previous to New Horizons, the very best Hubble photos of Pluto revealed solely a fuzzy blob of mirrored gentle,” mentioned SwRI’s Randy Gladstone, a member of the New Horizons science workforce. “Along with all of the fascinating options found on Pluto’s floor, the flyby revealed an uncommon function on Charon, a shocking pink cap centered on its north pole.”

Quickly after the 2015 encounter, New Horizons scientists proposed {that a} reddish “tholin-like” materials at Charon’s pole might be synthesized by ultraviolet gentle breaking down methane molecules. These are captured after escaping from Pluto after which frozen onto the moon’s polar areas throughout their lengthy winter nights. Tholins are sticky natural residues shaped by chemical reactions powered by gentle, on this case the Lyman-alpha ultraviolet glow scattered by interplanetary hydrogen atoms.

“Our findings point out that drastic seasonal surges in Charon’s skinny ambiance in addition to gentle breaking down the condensing methane frost are key to understanding the origins of Charon’s pink polar zone,” mentioned SwRI’s Dr. Ujjwal Raut, lead writer of a paper titled “Charon’s Refractory Manufacturing facility” within the journal Science Advances. “This is among the most illustrative and stark examples of surface-atmospheric interactions to date noticed at a planetary physique.”

The workforce realistically replicated Charon floor circumstances at SwRI’s new Heart for Laboratory Astrophysics and House Science Experiments (CLASSE) to measure the composition and colour of hydrocarbons produced on Charon’s winter hemisphere as methane freezes beneath the Lyman-alpha glow. The workforce fed the measurements into a brand new atmospheric mannequin of Charon to indicate methane breaking down into residue on Charon’s north polar spot.

“Our workforce’s novel ‘dynamic photolysis’ experiments supplied new limits on the contribution of interplanetary Lyman-alpha to the synthesis of Charon’s pink materials,” Raut mentioned. “Our experiment condensed methane in an ultra-high vacuum chamber beneath publicity to Lyman-alpha photons to copy with excessive constancy the circumstances at Charon’s poles.”

SwRI scientists additionally developed a brand new pc simulation to mannequin Charon’s skinny methane ambiance. 

“The mannequin factors to ‘explosive’ seasonal pulsations in Charon’s ambiance as a result of excessive shifts in circumstances over Pluto’s lengthy journey across the Solar,” mentioned Dr. Ben Teolis, lead writer of a associated paper titled “Excessive Exospheric Dynamics at Charon: Implications for the Crimson Spot” in Geophysical Analysis Letters.

The workforce enter the outcomes from SwRI’s ultra-realistic experiments into the atmospheric mannequin to estimate the distribution of advanced hydrocarbons rising from methane decomposition beneath the affect of ultraviolet gentle. The mannequin has polar zones primarily producing ethane, a colorless materials that doesn’t contribute to a reddish colour.

“We predict ionizing radiation from the photo voltaic wind decomposes the Lyman-alpha-cooked polar frost to synthesize more and more advanced, redder supplies liable for the distinctive albedo on this enigmatic moon,” Raut mentioned. “Ethane is much less risky than methane and stays frozen to Charon’s floor lengthy after spring dawn. Publicity to the photo voltaic wind could convert ethane into persistent reddish floor deposits contributing to Charon’s pink cap.” 

“The workforce is about to analyze the function of photo voltaic wind within the formation of the pink pole,” mentioned SwRI’s Dr. Josh Kammer, who secured continued assist from NASA’s New Frontier Information Evaluation Program.

Reference: “Excessive Exospheric Dynamics at Charon: Implications for the Crimson Spot” by Ben Teolis, Ujjwal Raut, Joshua A. Kammer, Caleb J. Gimar, Carly J. A. Howett, G. Randall Gladstone and Kurt D. Retherford, 15 April 2022, Geophysical Analysis Letters.
DOI: 10.1029/2021GL097580

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