Home > Science/Astronomy > Hubble Discovers a Fifth Moon Orbiting Pluto

Hubble Discovers a Fifth Moon Orbiting Pluto

ScienceDaily (July 11, 2012) — A team of astronomers using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope is reporting the discovery of another moon orbiting the icy dwarf planet Pluto.

This image, taken by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, shows five moons orbiting the distant, icy dwarf planet Pluto. The green circle marks the newly discovered moon, designated P5, as photographed by Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 on July 7. The observations will help scientists in their planning for the July 2015 flyby of Pluto by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft. P4 was uncovered in Hubble imagery in 2011. (Credit: NASA; ESA; M. Showalter, SETI Institute)
 

The moon is estimated to be irregular in shape and 6 to 15 miles across. It is in a 58,000-mile-diameter circular orbit around Pluto that is assumed to be co-planar with the other satellites in the system.

“The moons form a series of neatly nested orbits, a bit like Russian dolls,” said team lead Mark Showalter of the SETI Institute in Mountain View, Calif.

The discovery increases the number of known moons orbiting Pluto to five.

The Pluto team is intrigued that such a small planet can have such a complex collection of satellites. The new discovery provides additional clues for unraveling how the Pluto system formed and evolved. The favored theory is that all the moons are relics of a collision between Pluto and another large Kuiper belt object billions of years ago.

Read more : http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/07/120711123038.htm

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