Pluto’s New Two Moons

February 24th, 2006 | researchmaterial

Astronomers using NASA´s Hubble Space Telescope have confirmed the presence of two new moons around the distant planet Pluto.

The moons were first discovered with Hubble´s Advanced Camera for Surveys in May 2005, but the science team probed even deeper into the Pluto system on Feb. 15, 2006 to look for additional satellites and to characterize the orbits of the moons. In addition to verifying the reality of the moons, the observations also rule out the possibility of other satellites of roughly similar size orbiting Pluto inside the orbits of the two moons. The moons, provisionally designated S/2005 P 1 and S/2005 P 2, are approximately 40,000 and 30,000 miles away from Pluto…

The confirmation reinforces the emerging view that the Kuiper Belt, a swarm of icy bodies encircling the solar system beyond Neptune, may be more complex and dynamic than astronomers once thought. Pluto resides inside the Kuiper Belt and is about 3 billion miles from the Sun. Pluto was discovered in 1930.

The moons’ orbits are in the same plane as the orbit of the much larger satellite Charon (discovered in 1978). This likely means the moons were not captured, but instead were born, along with Charon, in what is commonly theorized to have been a titanic collision between two Pluto-sized objects over 4 billion years ago…


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