Pluto fourth moon discovered, Hubble Space Telescope reveals (Photo)

By on Jul 21, 2011 in Astronomy, Science, World Comments

A new and fourth moon of planet Pluto was reportedly discovered recently, as shown in the photo below, in addition to Charon, Nix and Hydra which were earlier discovered.

As noted at on Wednesday, July 20, 2011, Pluto’s fourth moon was temporarily called P4 which is also the smallest among the moons orbiting the planet.

“I find it remarkable that Hubble‘s cameras enabled us to see such a tiny object so clearly from a distance of more than 3 billion miles (5 billion km),” SETI Institute’s Mark Showalter was quoted on the report, who led the said survey.

According to the report, P4 is being estimated to be between 8 and 21 miles (13 to 34 kilometers) wide and is located between the orbits of Hydra and Nix.

Pluto’s largest moon Charon, which is about 648 miles (1,043 km) across, was discovered in 1978 and was said to have been first resolved using Hubble in 1990 as a separate body from the planet.

On the other hand, moons Hydra and Nix are around 20 to 70 miles across (32 to 113 km) Pluto, and were discovered in 2005.

“This is a fantastic discovery,” said New Horizons‘ principal investigator Alan Stern reportedly said, who is also from the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado.

“Now that we know there’s another moon in the Pluto system, we can plan close-up observations of it during our flyby.” Stern added, with the first photo by Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 taken on June 28.

However, scientists said that it has only been confirmed on July 3 and July 18 since P4 was not seen in earlier Hubble images due to its shorter exposure times.

P4, Pluto’s fourth moon (encircled), taken by the Hubble Space Telescope’s Wide Field Camera 3
Image Credit: NASA/ESA/M. Showalter

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