Silicon Valley Astronomy Lecture Series: Charon, Pluto's Companion -- What We're Learning from New Horizons

Public talks

Tags: Pluto, New Horizons, Solar System, Planetary Exploration

Time: Wednesday, May 15, 2019 -

Location: Los Altos Hills, CA

This talk is part of the Silicon Valley Astronomy Lecture Series at Foothill College, now in its 19th year.

Pluto’s large moon Charon turned out to be far more interesting than astronomers expected.  Pluto was the star of the New Horizons show, but the features on Charon’s surface tell a fascinating tale of how icy worlds could form far from the gravitational influences of the giant planets.  There is evidence of a world-wide sub-surface ocean early on, and of global expansion as that ocean froze solid.  Charon’s surface also has a region of plains where icy materials may once have flowed and smoothed over the fractures present elsewhere on its surface.  Dr. Ross Beyer will be your guide through this story of formation and change in the frozen reaches of the outer Solar System.

Dr. Ross Beyer is a Planetary Scientist with the Carl Sagan Center at the SETI Institute and NASA Ames Research Center. His interests include surface features, surface processes, remote sensing, and photography of the solid bodies in our Solar System—if you can stand on it, he's interested in what it's like and how it got that way.  He was a Participating Scientist with the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera, serves as a Co-Investigator with the HiRISE instrument on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, and has worked to help certify safe landing sites for Mars landers and rovers starting with Spirit and Opportunity.  He is also a member of the New Horizons Science Team that explored the Pluto System and is currently exploring in the Kuiper Belt.

Foothill College is just off the El Monte Road exit from Freeway 280 in Los Altos. 

For directions and parking information, see:  

For a campus map, see:

The lecture is co-sponsored by:

• The Foothill College Physical Science Division
• The SETI Institute
• The Astronomical Society of the Pacific
• NASA’s Ames Research Center.

We get large crowds for these talks, so we ask people to try to arrive a little bit early to find parking.  The lecture is free, but there is a charge of $3 for parking on campus and exact change is appreciated.

Past lectures in the series can be found on YouTube at

For more information visit