Anjali Shaju

Anjali Shaju

Grade: 8

School: Peachtree Charter Middle School

Teacher: Brian Gardiner

City: Atlanta, Georgia

Topic: Charon

"Stephen Hawking once said, “Look up at the stars and not down on your feet. Try to make sense of what you see and wonder about what makes the universe exist. Be curious.” The universe truly is a vast and perplexing place filled with an abundance of intriguing unknowns. Each of its small aspects contains abstruse mysteries. Unfortunately, due to the various challenges faced while trying to explore these enigmas, scientists are unable to analyze most of the universe and its puzzles. The objects in our solar system are one of the few things in the universe scientists are capable of exploring. These objects include the moons, planets, asteroids, and comets in our solar system. Charon is one such moon in the solar system that orbits the dwarf planet Pluto. It is a natural satellite that possesses a wide array of fascinating characteristics. These intriguing features of Charon have led to my conclusion that Charon is a place of tremendous potential and that it is essential that we further explore this natural satellite.

Artist's view of New Horizon and Charon
​Charon is the largest moon of Pluto. Charon is half the size of Pluto and is the largest known natural satellite relative to the planet it orbits. Pluto and Charon are so similar in size that they are often said to be a dwarf planet binary system, a system in which two dwarf planets are orbiting each other. Much about this moon was unknown until the New Horizon’s mission. The New Horizons mission was a space mission launched on January 19, 2006. The New Horizon mission gave us much-needed insight into the unique features of Charon. This spacecraft took images of Charon that unveiled the remarkable landscape of the natural satellite. The belt of fractures and canyons, large craters, groves, and faint ridges that cover Charon indicates that the moon might have had an internal ocean that had frozen long ago. The even more surprising fact is that the northern pole of Charon contains tholins, complex compounds formed through the irradiation of simple organic compounds. These unexpected discoveries hint that maybe life can exist on Charon. However, this is close to unfathomable due to the distance of Charon from the sun. If life were to form on Charon, the organisms would have to develop an immense resistance against the extreme conditions of Charon. Finding life on Charon would completely alter our understanding of life and its limits.

We have only seen the wonders of one side of this moon. The other side may contain even more astounding features that can alter our view of the whole universe. Discoveries of life on the satellite can help scientists further understand the ability of life to survive in extreme conditions. This knowledge of evolution can potentially help humans colonize the harsh terrains of other planets and moons. In conclusion, NASA must send missions to Charon so that we can acquire a better understanding of this moon and perhaps even a whole new perspective on the potentials of life.

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