Feb 23, 2016 09:14 AM EST

Pluto's Largest Moon Likely Fractured by Sub-Surface Ocean

NASA said that newly obtained images from the New Horizon space probe have provided new information about Pluto's moon.

The images suggest that the planet's moon - Charon - used to have a subsurface ocean that may have undergone "Hulk-like" transformation. NASA said that the said ocean may have been frozen and expanded. Such occurrence has caused the surface to stretch and fracture.

Lori, the New Horizon's long-range Reconnaissance imager, took images of Charon last July 14, 2015, when the spacecraft flew past by it at a distance of 78 700km. The said images was taken just 100 minutes after the craft made its first flyby to Pluto.

According to News24, the detailed photos "show a system of pull-apart tectonic faults on the moon's equator. These faults and fractures run 'at least 1 800km long and in places there are chasms 7.5km deep. By comparison, the Grand Canyon is 446km long and just over 1.6km deep'"

Furthermore, CouncilChronicle reports that the transformation was likened by astronomers to that of Marvel's Hulk.  The specific scene astronomers were describing was when "the comic book superhero tears his shirt to morph into the green monster." Charon, on the other hand, obtained its fractured surface due to the expansion of the subsurface ocean.

These assumptions were based on a series of cracks, ridges and, valleys that were noticed by researchers in the photos taken by New Horizons.

Researchers believe that the moon was warm enough in the past.

"But as Charon cooled over time, this ocean would have frozen and expanded (as happens when water freezes), lifting the outermost layers of the moon and producing the massive chasms we see today," NASA said.

At present, the moon's outer layer is completely made of ice.

Pluto, a dwarf planet, has five moons, one of which is Charon. The said moon is considered to be the largest among the five.

The mission to Pluto started in Jan. 2006. The New Horizons is now embarking on another journey towards the asteroid belt. Another flyby will be performed on MU69 in early 2019.

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