Monday, October 31

New moons! The solar system family just keeps on growing

We just got a new planet, and a new moon for that planet, over the summer. Now, Pluto itself turns out to have two new moons, discovered in photos taken with the Hubble Space Telescope.

These are some of the actual Hubble images from which the discovery was made:

It's a pretty amazing find, just as the final preparations are underway for NASA's mission to explore Pluto and then head on to study one or more Kuiper Belt Objects. That outermost zone of the solar system is really booming -- that's where the new tenth planet and its moon also reside.
This is an artist's conception of what the view might be like from one of the newfound moons, looking out at Pluto itself (center) and its large moon Charon (to the right of it), with the other new moon the bright spot to the left:

Here is more information on the details of the discovery, from the website of the SouthWest Research Institute, in Boulder Colorado, where some of the discovery team (including Institute director Alan Stern) are based.