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Discovery of ANOTHER New Moon around Pluto [Jul. 13th, 2012|09:48 am]
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!

[User Picture]From: sabercat
2012-07-13 05:16 pm (UTC)

Still no change in status?

But PLuto isn't a "planet"!
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[User Picture]From: nicodemusrat
2012-07-13 06:56 pm (UTC)

Re: Still no change in status?

I know! It's the fault of those darn anti-Pluto lobbyists.

Eris and Haumea are the other dwarf planets with notable moons. Seems they should be in a different category from something like Ceres. Ah well!
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[User Picture]From: genecatlow
2012-07-13 07:13 pm (UTC)
One of Pluto's puppies? ^_^
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[User Picture]From: porsupah
2012-07-13 09:37 pm (UTC)
6-15 miles? Egad. Gravity on that surface must be negligible.

Clearly, all we need to do on Earth is position a series of sequentially smaller satellites around the planet, such that launching from the final one is but a nigh literal hop off its surface. =:)
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[User Picture]From: nicodemusrat
2012-07-13 10:18 pm (UTC)
There are already some resonant orbiting objects around Earth that serve as quasi-moons...

"Moons of Earth" Wikipedia page
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[User Picture]From: patch_bunny
2012-07-14 02:28 am (UTC)
I just can't call something that small a moon. If Pluto is too small to be a planet, than that rock is too small to be a moon.
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[User Picture]From: nicodemusrat
2012-07-14 05:41 am (UTC)
"dwarf moon"? :)
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[User Picture]From: marko_the_rat
2012-07-14 11:50 pm (UTC)
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