Scientists have announced the discovery of a fifth moon of Pluto. Dubbed P5 for now, it is the smallest moon yet detected orbiting the frigid dwarf planet.
NASA, ESA, and M. Showalter (SETI Institute)
Pluto may have been kicked out of the planet club, but it has gained yet another companion.
Scientists announced Wednesday the discovery of the smallest moon yet around the icy orb, bringing the tally of known moons to five.
"We're not finished searching yet," said Hal Weaver of Johns Hopkins University, who thinks there may be more lurking.
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's scheduled to arrive in 2015. When the New Horizons craft launched in 2006, Pluto was a full-fledged planet, but has since been demoted to dwarf planet status by the International Astronomical Union.
The newfound moon — known as P5 until it gets a proper name — appeared as a faint fleck in the Hubble images. Scientists estimated the mini-moon to be 6 to 15 miles across, smaller than the still nameless one that they spotted last year, which is 8 to 21 miles wide.