Pluto's fifth moon: five fascinating facts (+video)
Using data from the Hubble telescope, SETI scientists spotted a fifth moon orbiting the icy dwarf planet Pluto.
Scientists announced the discovery of a new moon around Pluto today (July 11), bringing the dwarf planet's number of known satellites to five.
The newfound Pluto moon was spotted by researchers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope. The instrument has also found three other Pluto satellites — P4 last year, and Nix and Hydra in 2005. (The dwarf planet's other known moon, Charon, was discovered in 1978 at the United States Naval Observatory Flagstaff Station in Arizona.)
Here are a few fun facts about the new moon:
Its name is a mouthful
The fifth Pluto moon has been provisionally named S/2012 (134340) 1, but it's unlikely anyone other than astronomers will ever call it that. The satellite also currently goes by the less clunky moniker P5, though that won't last forever.
The International Astronomical Union oversees the naming of celestial bodies, and its guidelines stipulate that objects in Pluto's neighborhood receive mythological names associated with the underworld. Pluto, Charon, Nix and Hydra already meet this requirement; P4 and P5 will someday, too.
It's a tiny satellite
P5 is nothing like our own moon, a giant orb massive enough to be rounded into a sphere by its own gravity. Rather, researchers think P5 is irregularly shaped, with a diameter between 6 and 15 miles (10 to 24 kilometers).