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Hubble Discovers a New Moon Around Pluto
NASA.gov ^ | July 20, 2011 | Tony Phillips

Posted on 07/20/2011 3:23:56 PM PDT by MikeD

Astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope have discovered a fourth moon orbiting the icy dwarf planet Pluto. The tiny, new satellite – temporarily designated P4 -- popped up in a Hubble survey searching for rings around the dwarf planet.

The new moon is the smallest discovered around Pluto. It has an estimated diameter of 8 to 21 miles (13 to 34 km). By comparison, Charon, Pluto's largest moon, is 648 miles (1,043 km) across, and the other moons, Nix and Hydra, are in the range of 20 to 70 miles in diameter (32 to 113 km).

"I find it remarkable that Hubble's cameras enabled us to see such a tiny object so clearly from a distance of more than 3 billion miles (5 billion km)," said Mark Showalter of the SETI Institute in Mountain View, Calif., who led this observing program with Hubble.

The finding is a result of ongoing work to support NASA's New Horizons mission, scheduled to fly through the Pluto system in 2015. The mission is designed to provide new insights about worlds at the edge of our solar system. Hubble's mapping of Pluto's surface and discovery of its satellites have been invaluable to planning for New Horizons' close encounter.

"This is a fantastic discovery," said New Horizons’ principal investigator Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colo. "Now that we know there's another moon in the Pluto system, we can plan close-up observations of it during our flyby."

The new moon is located between the orbits of Nix and Hydra, which Hubble discovered in 2005. Charon was discovered in 1978 at the U.S. Naval Observatory and first resolved using Hubble in 1990 as a separate body from Pluto.

The dwarf planet’s entire moon system is believed to have formed by a collision between Pluto and another planet-sized body early in the history of the solar system. The smashup flung material that coalesced into the family of satellites observed around Pluto.

Lunar rocks returned to Earth from the Apollo missions led to the theory that our moon was the result of a similar collision between Earth and a Mars-sized body 4.4 billion years ago. Scientists believe material blasted off Pluto's moons by micrometeoroid impacts may form rings around the dwarf planet, but the Hubble photographs have not detected any so far.

"This surprising observation is a powerful reminder of Hubble's ability as a general purpose astronomical observatory to make astounding, unintended discoveries," said Jon Morse, astrophysics division director at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

P4 was first seen in a photo taken with Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3 on June 28. It was confirmed in subsequent Hubble pictures taken on July 3 and July 18. The moon was not seen in earlier Hubble images because the exposure times were shorter. There is a chance it appeared as a very faint smudge in 2006 images, but was overlooked because it was obscured.

For images and more information about Hubble, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/hubble


TOPICS: Astronomy; Science
KEYWORDS: astronomy; discovers; hubble; moon; new; pluto; xplanets
It's getting crowded in the Pluto system! Go, New Horizons, Go!
1 posted on 07/20/2011 3:23:57 PM PDT by MikeD
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To: MikeD

Where is New Horizons now

http://pluto.jhuapl.edu/mission/whereis_nh.php

Most exciting thing going on in space for me at this point. The Dawn mission is cool but Pluto is the one I really want to get a look at.


2 posted on 07/20/2011 3:26:30 PM PDT by cripplecreek (Remember the River Raisin! (look it up))
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To: MikeD
I say they name the moon 'Flea', after all its circling Pluto! ;-)

3 posted on 07/20/2011 3:27:28 PM PDT by Kartographer (".. we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.")
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To: MikeD

3 Moons now, and there are revisionists that want to downgrade Pluto from Planet status? Shame on them!


4 posted on 07/20/2011 3:29:25 PM PDT by ngat
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To: MikeD

It’s too bad the next telescope to replace Hubble is having major difficulties.


5 posted on 07/20/2011 3:33:37 PM PDT by Moonman62 (The US has become a government with a country, rather than a country with a government.)
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To: cripplecreek

The amazing thing is we’re over halfway there! I remember before launch we were all wondering what we’d be doing in ten years at arrival. Alan made a comment about most of the team still being in their fifties at arrival. I piped up that I wouldn’t quite be 40. He shot me this devlish look and told me to pipe down...


6 posted on 07/20/2011 3:36:50 PM PDT by MikeD (We live in a world where babies are like velveteen rabbits that only become real if they are loved.)
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To: MikeD
and they still want to defund the Hubble...
7 posted on 07/20/2011 3:37:36 PM PDT by Chode (American Hedonist - *DTOM* -ww- NO Pity for the LAZY)
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To: Moonman62

Space based optical telescopes are fast becoming obsolete thanks to adaptive optics. Its a good thing really. Maintenance can be done after breakfast and before lunch without the hassle of hoisting someone into orbit.

I know there’s a 36 meter optical array in the works. Given the global economy its hard to say when it will come online. I have read that our first real look at an exoplanet will probably come from a ground based telescope.


8 posted on 07/20/2011 3:43:52 PM PDT by cripplecreek (Remember the River Raisin! (look it up))
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To: Kartographer

I say they name it “Bluto.” The Ninth Planet was originally named after him, but lobbying efforts by Popeye and Olive Oil put the deep six to that, and the Disney Compromise was the result.


9 posted on 07/20/2011 3:44:32 PM PDT by FredZarguna (I remember when all we had were zeroes and ones. And some days we didn't even have ones.)
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To: MikeD

I thought Pluto was demoted to asteroid..its a planet again?


10 posted on 07/20/2011 3:48:14 PM PDT by RitchieAprile
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To: FredZarguna

I’m for calling it Spinach. You gotta do what ya gotta do.


11 posted on 07/20/2011 3:48:22 PM PDT by Paladin2
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To: cripplecreek
Space based optical telescopes are fast becoming obsolete thanks to adaptive optics. Its a good thing really. Maintenance can be done after breakfast and before lunch without the hassle of hoisting someone into orbit.

And what NASA doesn't want you to know is that they could have launched new replacements for Hubble on unmanned rockets for much cheaper than a servicing mission.

12 posted on 07/20/2011 3:54:46 PM PDT by Moonman62 (The US has become a government with a country, rather than a country with a government.)
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To: ngat
3 Moons now, and there are revisionists that want to downgrade Pluto from Planet status? Shame on them!

Even the Sumerians believed Pluto to be a planet.

13 posted on 07/20/2011 3:56:53 PM PDT by numberonepal (Palin/West 2012)
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To: numberonepal

Thats pretty neat considering they didnt know it existed........


14 posted on 07/20/2011 4:05:33 PM PDT by Red Badger (PEAS in our time? Obama cries PEAS! PEAS! when there is no PEAS!..........................)
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To: All

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15 posted on 07/20/2011 4:15:16 PM PDT by DeoVindiceSicSemperTyrannis (Want to make $$$? It's easy! Use FR as a platform to pimp your blog for hits!!!)
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To: MikeD

I wonder if all these ‘moons’ are actually debris from a relatively recent collision. I know that Pluto and Charon are mutually tidally locked, but I don’t know about Nix, Hydra and the new one.


16 posted on 07/20/2011 4:25:07 PM PDT by jmcenanly ( "We pay a person the compliment of acknowledging his superiority whenever we lie to him." -Samuel)
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To: cripplecreek

Optical telescopes, maybe, but you can’t do UV on the ground, and there are a number of IR bands that are difficult on the ground. Unfortunately JWST, if it happens, is IR only.


17 posted on 07/20/2011 8:59:43 PM PDT by MikeD (We live in a world where babies are like velveteen rabbits that only become real if they are loved.)
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To: RitchieAprile

The New Horizons team has always called Pluto a planet, and always will. It’s round, it goes around the Sun, and it has more moons. What more do you need?


18 posted on 07/20/2011 9:04:41 PM PDT by MikeD (We live in a world where babies are like velveteen rabbits that only become real if they are loved.)
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To: jmcenanly

The leading theory from Boulder is that the moons were formed after Pluto & Charon formed. I don’t think we know enough about the new moons to know their rotation periods. They are in different orbits from Charon, so the most they could do is always show the same face to Pluto.


19 posted on 07/20/2011 9:08:34 PM PDT by MikeD (We live in a world where babies are like velveteen rabbits that only become real if they are loved.)
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To: MikeD

Pluto is still a planet to me. To hell with them... :-)


20 posted on 07/20/2011 9:22:51 PM PDT by Ramius (Personally, I give us... one chance in three. More tea?)
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To: Red Badger
Thats pretty neat considering they didnt know it existed........

Indeed they did. They knew of all the planets including knowing the colors of Neptune and Uranus. It was chronicled many times in sculpture and in cuneiform. They also knew of precession and the 12 houses of the zodiac.

21 posted on 07/21/2011 4:15:40 AM PDT by numberonepal (Palin/West 2012)
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To: KevinDavis; annie laurie; Knitting A Conundrum; Viking2002; Ernest_at_the_Beach; Mmogamer; ...

Thanks MikeD.
 
X-Planets
· join · view topics · view or post blog · bookmark · post new topic · subscribe ·
Google news searches: exoplanet · exosolar · extrasolar ·

22 posted on 07/22/2011 9:59:39 AM PDT by SunkenCiv (Yes, as a matter of fact, it is that time again -- https://secure.freerepublic.com/donate/)
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To: numberonepal; Red Badger

The existence of Pluto wasn’t known to the Sumerians. They were similarly ignorant of Neptune and Uranus. If it were chronicled many times in sculpture and in cuneiform, it would have been remarked on by actual scholars of cuneiform and Sumerian, rather than by Zecharia Sitchin. The fact is, it doesn’t occur even once.


23 posted on 07/22/2011 10:29:00 AM PDT by SunkenCiv (Yes, as a matter of fact, it is that time again -- https://secure.freerepublic.com/donate/)
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To: jmcenanly

Pluto’s got relatively no competition, so stuff that wanders by (which will be moving fairly slowly in relation to Pluto) is much more likely to be captured, and as a capture would have cockeyed orbits until they either get chucked back out, or run into Pluto or one of its moons, or over a period of time interacting with Pluto and its other moons, wind up in a more regularized orbit.

That said, Neptune’s moon system is haywire, with one of the three largest ones nearly at escape. Neptune’s more massive than Uranus, which has a rotational axis nearly in the ecliptic, but a nice normal moon system. One way to interpret this has been an encounter (sometime in the past) with a passing star. That would of course mean that the Uranian moon system was acquired later, after the encounter which tipped Uranus, but managed to get regularized quickly; Neptune managed to *not* get tipped (although without knowing what its axis was like before this hypothetical encounter, we can’t say that for sure) but nearly had its moons torn away.

Harrington and VanFlandern postulated an encounter with a planetary body possibly still in orbit around our Sun, which caused these phenomena. In addition, Pluto is an escaped moon of Neptune under this scenario.


24 posted on 07/22/2011 10:46:25 AM PDT by SunkenCiv (Yes, as a matter of fact, it is that time again -- https://secure.freerepublic.com/donate/)
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To: SunkenCiv

Keep on ignoring the evidence. It’s right there in front of your eyes, but don’t believe them. If you are going to knock someone’s work, you might want to actually read it first.


25 posted on 07/22/2011 11:43:25 AM PDT by numberonepal (Palin/West 2012)
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To: numberonepal

Keep on reading the BS, it obviously suits you better.


26 posted on 07/22/2011 3:33:57 PM PDT by SunkenCiv (Yes, as a matter of fact, it is that time again -- https://secure.freerepublic.com/donate/)
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To: SunkenCiv
Keep on reading the BS, it obviously suits you better.

I will and I'll know the truth.

27 posted on 07/22/2011 4:18:54 PM PDT by numberonepal (Palin/West 2012)
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