NASA's Hubble Telescope Discovers Fifth Moon of Pluto

Yahoo Contributor Network

NASA has announced that the Hubble Space Telescope has discovered a fifth moon of Pluto, a former planet now designated as a "dwarf planet" by the International Astronomical unon in 2006.

Characteristics of the new moon of Pluto

The new moon, designated as P5, is an irregularly shaped object six to 15 miles across, according to NASA. It is orbiting Pluto in a 58,000-mile diameter circular orbit which is coplanar to the other four moons.

The other moons of Pluto

NASA reports that Charon, the first discovered moon of Pluto, was discovered in 1978 by the United States Naval Observatory. The Hubble Space Telescope discovered two other moons, Nix and Hydra, in 2006. The fourth moon, P4, was indicated in Hubble data in 2011. The moons of Pluto are thought to have been created by a collision between Pluto and another body in the nearby Kuiper Belt billions of years ago.

The purpose for the observations of the Pluto system

The Hubble Space Telescope is examining Pluto and its vicinity in advance of the arrival of the New Horizon space probe, currently en route and scheduled to pass through the Pluto system in July, 2015, according to NASA. The observations are meant to uncover whatever obstructions that may be in the New Horizon's path as it zips past Pluto at 30,000 miles an hour.

New Horizon

New Horizon was launched to flyby Pluto and its moons, as well as through the Kuiper Belt beyond in 2006. The New Horizon carries a variety of instruments designed to examine Pluto, its moons, and the space environment around them during its flyby.

Pluto as a dwarf planet

According to the Nine Planets site, Pluto was discovered in 1930 and was immediately classified as a planet, which it remained for the next 75 years. In 2006, the International Astronomical unon created a new definition of a planet which did not include Pluto. Thus the nine planets of the solar system were reduced to eight and Pluto was demoted to the designation of minor or dwarf planet.

Characteristics of Pluto

Pluto, which currently remains the only planet not visited by a space probe, is relatively unknown, according to the Nine Planets site. It is probably comprised of 70 percent rock and 30 percent water ice with some patches of solid nitrogen, methane, ethane, and carbon monoxide. Ot probably as a thing atmosphere of nitrogen with traces of carbon monoxide and methane when its orbit takes it closest to the sun, closer than the orbit of Neptune, a gas giant that is now the furthest planet from the sun.

Mark R. Whittington is the author of Children of Apollo and The Last Moonwalker. He has written on space subjects for a variety of periodicals, including The Houston Chronicle, The Washington Post, USA Today, the L.A. Times, and The Weekly Standard.

View Comments (4)