Image from the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) aboard New Horizons, taken on July 13, 2015 (via NASA)

It has only been 3 days since New Horizons' closest approach to Pluto, and we've already received stunning high-resolution images of the dwarf planet. The next batch is set to be released later on today, and this latest image certainly ups the anticipation.

This, of course, isn't an image of Pluto though. Rather, it is the most detailed image ever taken of Charon—a moon that is so large and peculiar, astronomers have long questioned whether Pluto should be considered a minor planet and Charon a moon, or if the two comprise a binary planet system.

It would seem as if New Horizons alone can't answer that question.. astronomers must, but the image below definitely conveys just how fascinating Charon is from an astrogeological perspective.

Charon, as seen by New Horizons (Image Credit: NASA/JPL)

In fact, when astronomers first got a look at its surface features, they were completely stunned, with one astronomer describing the region within the inset as "a large mountain sitting in a moat."

The image—captured just an hour and a half before New Horizons rendezvoused with Pluto for the very first time—was taken from a distance of 49,000 miles (78,858 km); The inset encompasses around 240 miles (386 km) from tip to tail, and shows an impressive number of craters and formations. The larger image of Charon (sans the inset) was taken the day before the encounter.

 


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