I am a native in this world And think in it as a native thinks

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Astronomy Tuesday

It may not be as dramatic as one of those colorful Hubble snaps of a galaxy or a nebula, but this New Horizons shot of Charon, one of Pluto's moons, is irresistibly cool. I'm just in awe that we now have such detailed photographs of a member of the family that even the Hubble saw as nothing more than a few bright pixels.

Charon was discovered by James Christy in 1978 when he noticed that the images of Pluto that he was studying periodically had a small bulge, really just a few more dots in what we non-professionals would recognize as "a small blob of dots." Although Charon, boatman to the underworld in Greek mythology, is a perfectly appropriate name for a satellite to a planet named after the Roman version of Hades, Christy actually made it up, using the first syllable of his wife Charlene's name, and adding -on to make it sound more scientific. So although most people pronounce the name like the mythological figure with a ch- or hard k- sound, astronomers pronounce it sharr-on as a tribute to Mr. Christy and his wife.

Image Credit: NASA, Johns Hopkins Univ./APL, Southwest Research Inst.

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