13 July 2012
Discovery of a fifth moon around Pluto
The image, acquired by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope (HST), shows the discovery of a new moon of dwarf planet Pluto, increasing the dwarf planet’s number of moons to five. The moon is designated P5 (circled). The image was obtained on 7 July 2012.
Credit: NASA; ESA; M. Showalter, SETI Institute
Astronomers observing with NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope (HST) have discovered a new moon of Pluto, the distant icy dwarf planet. The discovery increases the number of Pluto’s satellites to five. It is amazing that an object the size of Pluto has a complex satellite system. The new moon would yield new information for understanding how the Pluto system formed and evolved.
Scientists think that Pluto’s moons are debris that resulted from a collision between the dwarf planet and another icy object billions of years ago. P5 will also enable scientists to navigate the New Horizons spacecraft, during its visit to Pluto in 2015. The discoverers were applying HST to explore the space in the vicinity of Pluto, searching for objects that may represent potential risk to New Horizons.
Aymen Mohamed Ibrahem
Senior Astronomy Specialist