Skip to comments.Pluto Has Three Moons, Hubble Images Show
Posted on 10/31/2005 6:22:32 PM PST by NormsRevenge
BALTIMORE - Pluto has three moons, not one, new images from the Hubble Space Telescope suggest. Pluto, discovered as the ninth planet in 1930, was thought to be alone until its moon Charon was spotted in 1978.
The new moons, more than twice as far away as Charon and many times fainter, were spotted by Hubble in May.
While the observations have to be confirmed, members of the team that discovered the satellites said Monday they felt confident about their data.
"Pluto and Charon are not alone, they have two neighbors," said Hal Weaver of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory.
Follow-up observations by the Hubble are planned in February. If they are confirmed, the International Astronomical Union will consider names for the objects.
Earlier this month another group of astronomers, who claim to have discovered the 10th planet in the solar system, also said that body had a moon. (Whether the group actually discovered a new planet has not been confirmed.)
Both Pluto and the new, so-called planet are found in the Kuiper Belt, a disc of icy bodies beyond Neptune. In fact, about a fifth of the objects observed in the region have been found to have satellites, and the percentage could grow as more are found, said Keith Noll, an astronomer at the Baltimore-based Space Telescope Science Institute. The institute coordinates use of the orbiting telescope, but Noll wasn't part of the Pluto team. He believes Pluto team's finding is convincing.
Weaver said Pluto would be the first Kuiper belt object found to have multiple satellites. Depending on how reflective the surface of the moons are, the newly found moons are estimated to be between 30 and 100 miles across, he said.
Further observations of Pluto and the two new bodies will help astronomers more accurately determine the mass and density of Pluto and its large moon Charon, said team member Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colo.
The jury is still out on the impact additional moons will have on the ongoing debate over whether Pluto is actually a planet.
While having a moon is a not a criteria Mercury and Venus are moonless having more can't hurt, Stern said.
"Just on a visceral level, the fact that Pluto has a whole suite of companions will make some people feel better," Stern said.
On the Net:
These Hubble Space Telescope images, taken by the Advanced Camera for Surveys, reveal Pluto, its large moon Charon, and the planet's two new candidate satellites. Between May 15 and May 18, 2005, Charon, and the putative moons, provisionally designated P1 and P2, all appear to rotate counterclockwise around Pluto. P1 and P2 move less than Charon because they are farther from Pluto, and therefore would be orbiting at slower speeds. P1 and P2 are thousands of times less bright than Pluto and Charon. The enhanced-color images of Pluto (the brightest object) and Charon (to the right of Pluto) were constructed by combining short exposure images taken in filters near 475 nanometers (blue) and 555 nanometers (green-yellow). The images of the new satellites were made from longer exposures taken in a single filter centered near 606 nanometers (yellow), so no color information is available for them.
Credit: NASA, ESA, H. Weaver (JHU/APL), A. Stern (SwRI), and the Hubble Space Telescope Pluto Companion Search Team
Hubble Spies Possible New Moons Orbiting Pluto
Background Information Regarding Our Two Newly Discovered Satellites of Pluto
Personally I think they're a little to liberal in what they're calling moons for Pluto. The planet travels a pretty eccentric orbit in a rough neighborhood. The rocks that are orbiting the planet this plutonian year many not be there next time around.
There have never been photos of Pluto that are anywhere near this sharp.
What kind of filtering was done?
If they are real (as in I have my doubts) then we should use this flitering software on every deep-space capture from now on.
There must be a mistake. Pluto, like most dogs, would
only have two "moons"... [um, never mind]
I thnk it would be a damm shame to abandon Hubble.
What is the cost to keep a team running it and keep it repaired?
How much to replace it- geez we got some great stuff from hubble
Hubble needs to be upgraded and repaired through Spacewalks from the Shuttle. The gyros and back-up gyros themselves are almost ready to give it up and need to be replaced for example.
Given we don't know how safe the shuttle is now and given the limited number of missions that will be carried out now with the Shuttle given it's safety risk, Hubble upgrades don't rank that highly.
Not including those points, there is better technology available today for a space-based telescope, including ability for more detailed pictures but also on more wavelengths than Hubble.
It might be better to spend a billion dollars on several new and better space telescopes and let Hubble crash into the sea than to spend the same dollars on repairing it.
I seem to have fallen off of your Ping list. Please add me to the list again. Thanks!
How about Tehran or Damascus?
Let me just say this first: This is NOT my fault.
That said, science ping.
And it isn't my fault.
Captures. :') At Pluto's distance from the Sun, it's easier for Pluto to grab something because it has a larger sphere of influence than the Earth. (':
Wonder what they will finally call these new possible moons.
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