New explanation for the redness of Charon’s north pole

(ORDO NEWS) — Researchers at Purdue University have developed a new theory to explain why Pluto’s moon Charon has a red spot at the north pole. The results of the study were published in the journal Nature Communications.

Previous research has shown that many icy objects in the Kuiper belt are partially or completely covered in a reddish-brown substance called tholin, which forms when organic matter is bombarded with radiation.

In this new work, the researchers suggest that tholin formed from methane released from cryovolcanoes.

To test their theory, the researchers turned to Pluto’s moon Charon, whose north pole is covered in tholin.

They note that according to preliminary studies, the cause of the red spot is the gases escaping from Pluto.

But previous research has also shown that the moon was once covered in a liquid ocean containing many different substances, including methane.

Scientists hypothesized that when the ocean froze, the methane got trapped in the ice. When the water was pressurized, cracks formed in the ice, which periodically led to eruptions, contributing to the release of some methane gas.

The gas could have made its way to the north pole, where it froze and fell to the surface, after which it was exposed to solar radiation for millions of years that made it turn red.

The researchers created a simulation of methane molecules drifting through Charon’s atmosphere, calculating how much methane could escape in this scenario and how much could make it to the north pole.

They found that roughly 1,000 billion tons of gas could have reached the north pole – more than enough to create a red spot.

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