Mark Showalter Leads Team in Identifying a Fifth Moon Orbiting Pluto
Within the past two weeks, astronomers used the Hubble Space Telescope to identify a fifth moon circling Pluto.
It's hard to believe, but the arrival of NASA's New Horizons spacecraft at Pluto is just three years away. The logistics of the high-speed flyby, already challenging, just got more complicated: Pluto turns out to have a fifth moon.
Although for now its official designation is S/2012 (134340) 1 — "134340" being the minor-planet number assigned to Pluto — the new find has been nicknamed "P5". (Easier to remember, don't you agree?) Its existence was announced last night by the IAU's Central Bureau for Astronomical Telegrams.
Long-time Pluto-watcher Mark Showalter (SETI Institute) led the nine-member discovery team. They took advantage of Pluto's opposition on June 29th, when this little world was a mere 31¼ astronomical units (2.9 billion miles) away, to image the system five times from June 26th to July 9th with the Hubble Space Telescope and its Wide Field Camera 3.