Pluto has an unusual relationship with its moon Charon in the solar system. This is due to Charon’s size and proximity which is more than half of Pluto’s diameter and orbits only 19,312 kilometres away.
Pluto’s moon Charon is appreciably dropping the loss of atmosphere of the icy dwarf planet by creating a guard. Study says it is redirecting much of the solar wind away.
Researchers said, “To put that into perspective, picture our moon three times closer to Earth, than and as large as Mars,”
The study conducted by researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology in the US presents additional knowledge into this relationship and how it is affecting the continuous stripping of Pluto’s atmosphere by solar wind.
According to the study, when Charon is positioned between the Sun and Pluto, the research possibly indicated that the moon can significantly reduce atmospheric loss.
According to Carol Paty, A Georgia Tech associate professor, “Charon does not always have its own atmosphere. But when it does, it creates a shield for Pluto and redirects much of the solar wind around and away,”
This barrier has created a more acute angle of Pluto’s atmosphere, and slowing down the worsening of the atmosphere.
When Charon does not have an atmosphere, or when it is behind or next to Pluto, then Charon has only a minor effect on the interaction of the solar wind with Pluto.
The study revealed that ‘the performance before the New Horizons probe collected and returned data to Earth, is consistent with the measurements made by the spacecraft about Pluto’s atmospheric loss rate.’
Previous estimations of the studies were at least 100 times higher than the definite rate.
According to John Hale, the Georgia Tech student who co-led the study with Carol Paty, “the Pluto system is a window into our origins because Pluto has not been subjected to the same extreme temperatures as objects in closer orbits to the Sun. As a result, Pluto still has more of its volatile elements, which have long since been blown off the inner planets by solar wind,”
Hale also informed that, “Even at its great distance from the Sun, Pluto is slowly losing its atmosphere. Knowing the rate at which Pluto’s atmosphere is being lost can tell us how much atmosphere it had to begin with and therefore what it looked like originally. From there, we can get an idea of what the solar system was made of during its formation,”
The study has put forward a popular hypothesis of Charon. The areas of discolouration that has occured near its lunar poles are likely caused by magnetised particles due to Pluto’s atmosphere.
These particles have accumulated and settled on Charon over billions of years. This study can be expected to bring forward new information about Charon and its planet.