Hubble Space Telescope Helps in Finding a New Moon Around Pluto
Scientists have found another moon orbiting around the little planet Pluto. They have made the discovery after looking through the NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope in the late June and early July, and announced this discovery on Wednesday.
This is the fifth moon around the planet and is named as P5. It is thought to be irregular in shape and 6-15 miles across. Its circular orbit is 58,000-mile-diameter around i.e. about the eighth of the distance of our moon’s orbit around the Earth.
"Just announced: Pluto has some company — we've discovered a 5th moon using the Hubble Space Telescope!" Alan Stern, of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colo., announced via Twitter. He is the principal investigator of NASA's New Horizons spacecraft that would fly by the Pluto system in 2015.
According to scientists this discovery is not sufficient to help the little planet to be reconsidered in the big planets of the Solar System. In 2006, the International Astronomical Union placed Pluto in a category of dwarf planet.
Before P5, scientists discovered Charon (discovered in 1978), Nix, Hydra (both of them were discovered in 2005) and P4 (discovered in 2011) orbiting around the little planet. All of them lie in the same plane. It has been hypothesized that the moons were produced billions of years ago, when Pluto hit against a large object from the Kuiper belt, which is a part of the outer solar system with many small, celestial objects.
"The moons form a series of neatly nested orbits, a bit like Russian dolls," said Mark Showalter from the Seti Institute in Mountain View, US. Showalter led the team, who discovered the new moon.
"The discovery of so many small moons indirectly tells us that there must be lots of small particles lurking unseen in the Pluto system," said Harold Weaver of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory.
"I think there's a very good chance" to study the Plutonian satellites, Stern said. "Every time we look we see more. I expect New Horizons will see more that Hubble cannot see."
Image Credit: Hubblesite