While Pluto is no longer a planet according to the inhabitants of Earth, it is still of great interest to us. For a long time it’s been known that the now dwarf planet has one moon, Charon, but a recent picture taken by NASA shows Pluto and all five of its moons. That’s right, five.
This picture was taken by the New Horizons spacecraft and its Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) camera. The spacecraft took a series of pictures between April 25th and May 1st, one of which showed the five moons. It is scheduled for a flyby of Pluto on the 14th of July.
This is the first time that two of the moons – Kerberos and Styx – have been seen in pictures. Kereberos is only 7 to 21 kilometers wide, and Styx is 10 to 32 kilometers wide. By comparison, Charon is roughly half the size of Pluto and has a diameter of 1043 kilometers. Kereberos and Styx are practically large rocks in orbit of Pluto.
The New Horizons craft was launched in January 2006 and is set to do the first up close survey of Pluto and its moons. Kerberos and Styx were discovered recently (2011 and 2012, respectively), and this mission will be searching for any other moons while it searches for objects that could impede it on the upcoming flyby.
The spacecraft will be travelling within 12,500 kilometers of Pluto, which will give scientists the best look of the dwarf planet since it was discovered eighty-five years ago. One member of the team, John Spencer, commented that if any new moons are found, “they will be worlds no one has ever seen”.