This is an image of Pluto with its moon Charon.
Click on image for full size
Image courtesy of NASA/JPL. This image is in the public domain.
Pluto & Charon, a double planet
Of all the planets and moons in the solar system, Pluto and Charon are the two which resemble each other the most closely. They are almost the same size, and they are very close together. They are so close together that they orbit the center of mass between them, and the center of mass goes around the sun. Pluto and Charon are so close that they may even share an atmosphere. Molecules may be drawn off Pluto and turn to solids on the surface of Charon.
The only other planet and moon in the solar system which could be a double planet are the Earth and the Moon. As in the case of the Earth and the Moon, the origin of such a system is hard to explain. The explanation which seems best is that some large object struck Pluto (and the Earth) and tore out a blob which became Charon (and the Moon) from the crust of the planet. In the case of the Moon, the Moon seems to be made of material very much like the Earth's crust and not like the Earth's more metallic interior. Likewise Charon may be made of more icy material which resembles Pluto's surface, rather than the more rocky interior of Pluto.
Shop Windows to the Universe Science Store!
Our online store
on science education, classroom activities in The Earth Scientist
specimens, and educational games
You might also be interested in:
It may seem hard to believe that Pluto could have an atmosphere because it is so cold at 39 AU, where Pluto is found, but it does. Because there are times when Pluto is closer to the sun than is Neptune...more
Pluto has // Call the moon count function defined in the document head print_moon_count('pluto'); moons. One of the moons is very large. The large moon is named Charon. The other two moons are fairly small....more
Charon is a moon of Pluto. Pluto has // Call the moon count function defined in the document head print_moon_count('pluto'); moons. Charon is much larger than Pluto's other moons. James Christy discovered...more
Of all the planets and moons in the solar system, Pluto and Charon are the two which resemble each other the most closely. They are almost the same size, and they are very close together. They are so...more
Pluto is so far away, and has never been explored. Questions to answer about Pluto include the following: What are the geologic features of the surface. (pictures of the surface) If there are bare spots,...more
No one knows whether or not Pluto has a magnetosphere. Scientists were very surprised to find that Jupiter's icy moon Ganymede had a magnetosphere because it is hard to explain how an icy body can develop...more
Pluto is a frigid ball of ice and rock that orbits far from the Sun on the frozen fringes of our Solar System. Considered a planet, though a rather odd one, from its discovery in 1930 until 2006, it was...more