How to Catch a Moon of Pluto (and what to do with it when it's caught)


Tuesday, February 19 2013 - 7:00 pm, PST
Mark Showalter
SETI Institute

Our recent discoveries of two small moons orbiting Pluto raise interesting new questions about how the dwarf planet formed. We now know that a total of four outer moons circle around a central "double-planet" comprising Pluto and its large, nearby moon Charon. NASA's New Horizons spacecraft will arrive at Pluto in July 2015, and the new discoveries come just in time for the science planners to target closeup views of the tiny bodies during the flyby. However, the discoveries also come as a mixed blessing--small moons often raise clouds of dust, prompting concerns about a possible hazard to the spacecraft when it flies through the system at more then 10 km per second.

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