Charonian /keuh roh"nee euhn/, Charonic /keuh ron"ik/, adj.
/kair"euhn, kar"-/, n.
1. Class. Myth. the ferryman who conveyed the souls of the dead across the Styx.
2. (usually used ironically) any ferryman.
3. Astron. the natural satellite of Pluto, discovered in 1978.

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In Greek mythology, the son of Erebus (Darkness) and Nyx (Night), whose duty it was to ferry the souls of the dead across the Rivers Styx and Acheron, his payment being the coin placed in the mouth of the corpse before burial.

He continues in modern Greek folklore as Charos, or Charontas, the angel of death.

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      in Greek mythology, the son of Erebus and Nyx (Night), whose duty it was to ferry over the Rivers Styx and Acheron those souls of the deceased who had received the rites of burial. In payment he received the coin that was placed in the mouth of the corpse. In art, where he was first depicted in an Attic vase dating from about 500 BC, Charon was represented as a morose and grisly old man. Charon appears in Aristophanes' comedy Frogs (406 BC); Virgil portrayed him in Aeneid, Book VI (1st century BC); and he is a common character in the dialogues of Lucian (2nd century AD). In Etruscan mythology he was known as Charun and appeared as a death demon, armed with a hammer. Eventually he came to be regarded as the image of death and of the world below. As such he survives in Charos, or Charontas, the angel of death in modern Greek folklore.

 largest moon of the dwarf planet Pluto. It was discovered telescopically on June 22, 1978, by James W. Christy and Robert S. Harrington at the U.S. Naval Observatory station in Flagstaff, Arizona. Its radius—about 625 km (388 miles)—is a little more than half that of Pluto, and its mass is more than one-tenth of Pluto's mass. Charon is so large and massive with respect to Pluto that some scientists prefer to think of the two bodies as a double system. The moon was named for Charon, the ferryman of dead souls to the realm of Hades (the Greek counterpart of the Roman god Pluto) in Greek mythology.

       Data for Pluto's moon CharonCharon orbits Pluto in 6.3873 Earth days, following a circular path with a radius of 19,640 km (12,200 miles). Because gravitational (tidal (tide)) interactions between the two bodies have synchronized Charon's orbital period with the rotation period of Pluto, Charon always faces the same hemisphere of Pluto. In addition, Charon always shows the same hemisphere to Pluto, because (like many other moons) its rotation period is identical to its orbital period. (For additional data about Charon, see table (Data for Pluto's moon Charon).)

      No spacecraft has yet visited Pluto and Charon; all information about this distant system has come from observations made from the vicinity of Earth. Spectral analysis of light reflected from Charon reveals that its surface is covered primarily by water ice, a sharp contrast to the frozen methane that is so prevalent on Pluto. The relatively low reflectivity of Charon (average albedo about 0.35) suggests that other, darker materials such as cometary dust must be present. Since the 1990s Pluto and Charon have come to be regarded as giant members of the Kuiper belt, a ring of icy, cometary objects that lies beyond Neptune's orbit.

 Charon was the only known moon of Pluto until 2005, when astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope discovered two comparatively tiny objects revolving around Pluto outside Charon's orbit.

Tobias Chant Owen

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Universalium. 2010.

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