A New Moon for Pluto

A New Moon for Pluto

Pluto, that once-planet frozen body hanging on at the edge of our solar system, may have a reason to celebrate today. NASA, using the Hubble Space Telescope, is reporting a brand new moon for the plutoid.

The newly discovered moon varies in width from 6 to 15 miles across, and it is tucked into a 58,000 mile diameter orbit of Pluto. If you are counting, this brings the total known moons of pluto moons to 5. Not bad for a small heavenly body.

The new moon has the official designation of  S/2012 (134340) 1, and it was discovered in nine separate Hubble Wide Field Camera 3 images taken on June 26, 27, 29 and July 7 and 9. The new moon joins Charon (the largest, discovered in 1979), Nix (2005), Hydra (2005), and P4, discovered in 2011 through Hubble data.

Even more importantly to NASA, knowledge of the new moon will help the NASA New Horizons spacecraft in 2015, when it makes a close flyby of Pluto at a dizzying 30,000 miles per hour. At those speeds even a small rock could spell disaster for the spacecraft. Let’s hope that those Plutonians aren’t carrying a grudge about that whole former planet thing…


Pluto, formal designation 134340 Pluto, is the second-most-massive known dwarf planet in the Solar System (after Eris) and the tenth-most-massive body observed directly orbiting the Sun. Originally classified as the ninth planet from the Sun, Pluto was recategorized as a dwarf planet and plutoid due to the discovery that it is only one of several large bodies within the Kuiper belt.