Pluto With 4 Moons

Posted July 20, 2011 by User 1

Just hours ago on July 20, 2011, astronomers working with the Hubble Space Telescope discovered yet another moon of what was once the smallest planet of the solar system. The astronomers were looking for possible rings around the dwarf planet caused by micro-meteoroid impacts just as the impact of a Mars-sized object into Earth (later forming is moon) is thought to have created.

Originally, Pluto was just Pluto -- a chunk of rock that kept getting smaller and smaller with each size estimate. Originally believed to be the size of Neptune, its size was gradually revised down to that Earth, then the Moon and now is believed to have a diameter just two-thirds that of the moon. Despite its small size, it came with many surprises. In 1978, Pluto was discovered to have a moon which became known as Charon. It has a diameter of over half that of Pluto's making the two a double planet, the largest such example in the solar system. The system became even more complex in 2005 with the discovery of two more natural satellites now named Nix and Hydra. Despite being magnitudes smaller than the smallest planet, Pluto now has more moons than any of the inner planets. With this most recent discovery, that total continues to grow and now sits at four.

The New Horizons space probe, launched in early 2006, is set to reach and explore Pluto and its moons in 2015. The discovery only adds to the excitement of what else might be uncovered by the probe in the years ahead. There is plenty more to come.

NASA Press Release:

The complete list of Pluto's moons is now:

1. Charon (1978)
2. Hydra (2005)
3. Nix (2005)
4. S/2011 P 1 (2011) - the latest discovery


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