September 18, 2022
This week James Webb Telescope spent hours observing Pluto and its moon Charon. On September 14, 2022, James Webb Telescope used NIRSpec IFU Spectroscopy to gather data on Pluto and its largest moon Charon. The largest of Pluto's five moons, Charon, was discovered on June 22, 1978, by James Christy and Robert Harrington at the U.S. Naval Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona.
As Charon is almost half the size of Pluto, the two are also referred to as a double dwarf planet system and have a distance of 12,200 miles (19,640 km) between them. Charon takes 6.4 earth days to orbit around Pluto. Charon and Pluto are in tidal locking which means that Charon neither rises nor sets, but appears at the same spot on Pluto's surface with its same side facing always facing Pluto.
Like earth's moon, Charon doesn't have an atmosphere, while the planet it orbits, Pluto, does. Albeit, there has been speculation about a minuscule atmosphere surrounding Charon but nothing has been proven yet. With the James Webb Telescope gathering data on Pluto and Charon, we hope to get more information about their atmospheres. As Charon is believed to be formed in a collision, it would also mean that there was no cooling stage which would have allowed surrounding gases to condense into a solid atmosphere.