Saturday, March 5, 2016

Pluto and Charon...

Pluto and Charon...  This is a recently downlinked photo taken by the New Horizons robotic explorer last July.  Look how close to each other these two appear to be!  I'm not sure what the plane of Charon's orbit is (relative to the camera), so some of this could be an illusion of sorts.

So I did a little research, and found this table.  From that table, I computed a few ratios of distances to planets to moon diameters:

Pluto::Charon 16
Earth::Moon 111
Saturn::Titan 237
Jupiter::Ganymede 203
Mars::Phobos 231

So Charon really is unusually close to its planet.  The next closest such ratio is that of our own moon, and it's seven times as large!  If the moon was proportionally as far from Earth as Charon is from Pluto, it would be just 55,616 kilometers (33,370 miles) away.  It would look huge in the sky – the full moon would span 3.6° in the sky, occupying 50 times the sky it does now.  That what Charon would look like as seen from the surface of Pluto.  Wow!

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