First views of Pluto’s tiniest moons emerge
As NASA’s Pluto probe nears the planet, it managed to grab some spectacular photos of its small moons for the first time. The New Horizons spacecraft is now in position to view the entire Pluto family.
“Detecting these tiny moons from a distance of more than 55 million miles is amazing, and a credit to the team that built our LORRI long-range camera and John Spencer’s team of moon and ring hunters,” principal investigator Alan Stern remarked on the discoveries and the people behind them.
The moons themselves have been glimpsed only in the space of the last two years, though scientists knew of their existence before: the gigantic Charon – in July 2013; Hydra and Nix – in July of the following year and January 2015, respectively. We’re now up to Kerberos and Styx – the smallest and faintest of the Pluto family that NASA has released.
“New Horizons is now on the threshold of discovery,” mission member John Spencer of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, says. “If the spacecraft observes any additional moons as we get closer to Pluto, they will be worlds that no one has seen before.”