A team of astronomers using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has discovered another moon orbiting the dwarf planet Pluto.
They say the new moon, Pluto’s 5th, is likely irregular in shape and 6 to 15 miles across. Provisionally designated S/2012 (134340) 1, it was detected in nine separate sets of images taken by Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 on June 26, 27, 29, and July 7 and 9. The moon circles Pluto in a 58,000 mile-diameter orbit.
Pluto’s largest moon, Charon, was discovered in 1978 in observations made at the United States Naval Observatory in Washington, D.C. Hubble observations in 2006 uncovered two additional small moons, Nix and Hydra. In 2011 another moon, P4, was found in Hubble data.
In the years following the New Horizons Pluto flyby, astronomers plan to use Hubble’s planned successor, NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, for follow-up observations. The Webb telescope’s infrared vision will be able to measure the surface chemistry of Pluto, its moons, and many other bodies that lie in the distant Kuiper Belt along with Pluto.
For more information about New Horizons and its mission to Pluto visit http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2012/13jul_pluto5/
Credit: Science News
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