July 12, 2012

New Pluto Moon Discovered

Lee Rannals for - Your Universe Online

Scientists announced on Wednesday they have discovered the smallest moon yet, orbiting around the dwarf planet Pluto.

The discovery was made by a team of scientists who used the Hubble Space Telescope to scout out Pluto's neighborhood ahead of a NASA spacecraft that is scheduled to arrive in 2015.

The new moon, known as P5 currently, appeared as a small fleck in the Hubble images, and scientists believe it is about 6 to 15 miles across.

Pluto's largest moon is the 650-mile-wide Charon, which was discovered back in 1978. The planet's two smaller moons, Nix and Hydra, were found in 2005.

The latest discovered moon is still smaller than a moon that was spotted orbiting the planet last year, which is 8 to 21 miles wide.

"We're not finished searching yet," Hal Weaver of Johns Hopkins University told the Associated Press.

The moons are thought to have formed after an ancient collision between Pluto and an object in the Kuiper Belt.

Since the launch of the New Horizons mission, scientists have been studying the Kuiper Belt in search of debris that might pose a danger to the spacecraft.

Mark Showalter of the SETI Institute said names for the new moon will not be proposed until the team finishes analyzing the Hubble data in case there are more hidden moons.

"If we happen to find more moons, then we will have to pick a different story from Greek mythology," he told the Associated Press.