Pluto’s new moon discovery leaves scientists hungry for more
July 11th’s discovery of Pluto’s new moon, P5 is causing more concern, as well as excitement. New Horizons is the first high-speed probe to visit Pluto, and Pluto’s new moon could cause danger to it. Pluto’s new moon is reinforcing exhilaration to find more.
Only a year ago, the Hubble satellite discovered Pluto’s fourth moon, P4, as well as Pluto’s new moon. Debris floating around the four moons plus Pluto’s new moon could crash into New Horizons and destroy it.
Pluto’s new moon is estimated to be between six and 15 miles in diameter, its shape unlike Earth’s moon. The sizes of Pluto’s other moons, Charon, Nix, Hydra and P4 range between eight and 648 miles in diameter. All moons, including Pluto’s new moon, are on an equal plane, Pluto’s new moon orbiting just between Charon and the other three.
According to SPACE.com, Pluto’s new moon orbits 29,000 miles away from the dwarf planet.
New Horizons project head Alan Stern, of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colo., said, “We’re finding more and more, so our concern about hazards is going up,” referring to the debris that endanger New Horizons.
To prevent any such disasters, NASA is sending Hubble to Pluto to get a handle on the debris situation. Scientists believe Pluto’s moons are leftovers from a collision between Pluto and another object in the Kuiper Belt.
According to SPACE.com, Kuiper Belt is what used to be the circle of icy bodies away from Neptune’s orbit.
New Horizons scientists are looking forward to the outcome three years from now. They are eager to see what the new probe can find.
Stern said, “It’s another reminder of how little is known,” adding “Every time we look harder, we find new stuff: An atmosphere, polar caps, more and more moons, a big albedo. When New Horizons gets there, I think it’s going to knock our socks off. It’s going to be whole new world.”