"P4" --The Discovery of Pluto's New Moon
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July 21, 2011

"P4" --The Discovery of Pluto's New Moon

 
Pluto

The discovery of Pluto's  tiny new moon — announced July 20 and called P4 for now — brings the number of known Pluto satellites to four. The find, made with the Hubble Space Telescope, suggests that NASA's New Horizons probe could make some big discoveries, too, when it makes a close flyby of Pluto in 2015, researchers said.  When New Horizons' imaging of Pluto is done, scientists hope the spacecraft can investigate one or two other objects that — like Pluto — are in the Kuiper Belt, a ring of icy bodies orbiting far from the sun.

"The discovery of P4 just reinforces what we knew before: This is going to be completely new territory," said Hal Weaver, New Horizons project scientist at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. "We can't wait."

The New Horizons spacecraft launched in January 2006 on a mission to study the faraway Pluto system, which has never been visited by a probe. That system is now known to harbor at least four moons: Charon, Nix, Hydra and P4.

Since its launch, New Horizons has traveled more than 1.8 billion miles (2.9 billion kilometers), and it's slated to make a close pass of Pluto in July 2015.

"We obviously want to pay attention to it," New Horizons principal investigator Alan Stern, of the Southwest Research Institute, told SPACE.com. "But it's not going to reshape the basic concentration on Pluto and Charon, and also Nix and Hydra."

The newly discovered moon supports the theory that Pluto had a violent past. The system probably formed after a massive collision between two Pluto-size bodies about 4.6 billion years ago, Weaver said. The dwarf planet's satellites likely coalesced from the debris flung into space by this cosmic smash-up.

Scientists found P4 using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope during a search for possible rings around Pluto. Hubble also detected Nix and Hydra back in 2005.

New Horizons was designed to unlock some of Pluto's unsolved mysteries — what it looks like, what it's made of and the nature of its atmosphere, for example.

The image above provided by NASA combines two labeled images of the Pluto system taken by the Hubble Space Telescope's Wide Field Camera 3 ultraviolet visible instrument with a newly discovered fourth moon P4 circled.

Pluto's new moon needs a better, more evocative  name. Right now astronomers are using two boring designators for it – P4 and S/2011 P1. What would you name it?

The Daily Galaxy via NASA, ESA, and M. Showalter (SETI institute) / AP

Comments

Pluto's Pups 1 & 2

This moon should definitly be called Donald - As in Donald the duck and Pluto.

Cerberus, clearly.

I think the new moon should be called Hecate, the Goddess of witchcraft and dark magic, but also the goddess of gates, Pluto being the the frontier, or the gate to the solar system.
Peace

Dog Food, Pluto always wanted it around.

This new moon of Pluto should definitely be called "Halle" in honor of the dark earthly goddess and actress Halle Berry.

Plz dounoled

Chimera. A multi-headed mythilogical creature like Hydra.

how about Kali,shes a goddess of the underworld,also is associated with Shiva an ice goddess.shiva or kali would be great ;)

Either Cerberus or Styx (that rock band would love that!). BTW, it shouldn't take so long for the IAU to name a newly-discovered object and there are plenty of things out there that could do with a proper name.

i think it should be named Anthemus as it has a good ring to it and it would suite the moon


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