July 13th, 2012

Sy Liebergot

Discovery of ANOTHER New Moon around Pluto

NASA Discovers a New Itty-Bitty Moon Orbiting Pluto

Pluto's P5 Moon May Mean Trouble for New Horizons Spacecraft

They're scanning the area around Pluto carefully in preparation for New Horizons' approach almost exactly three years from now. They located a very small moon -- just 6 to 15 miles in diameter.

The presence of all these little moons is of some concern to the mission team since it indicates that Pluto might have a debris disc. Even a rock the size of a piece of gravel could knock out the spacecraft if it hits the right part. But that is also reflective of why we're doing this mission: we still know very little about Pluto and its environs.

Note that a new moon was also discovered last year around this time. These new moons are designated P4 and P5 until officially named. So the system is currently Pluto, Charon, Nix, Hydra, P4, P5.

If the current rate of moon discovery (1/year) keeps up, we can extrapolate that we'll have discovered more moons around Pluto than Jupiter in... about sixty years. Assuming Jupiter doesn't get new ones in the meantime. So there's your semi-bogus science fact for the day!