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Hubble Spots Possible New Moons Around Pluto

The artist's concept above shows the Pluto system from the surface of one of the candidate moons. The other members of the Pluto system are just above the moon's surface. Pluto is the large disk at center, right. Charon, the system's only confirmed moon, is the smaller disk to the right of Pluto. The other candidate moon is the bright dot on Pluto's far left. Click image for full resolution. Credit: NASA, ESA and G. Bacon (STScI).
Laurel MD (SPX) Nov 01, 2005
The Hubble Space Telescope images above, taken by the Advanced Camera for Surveys, reveal Pluto, its large moon Charon, and the planet's two new candidate satellites.

Between May 15 and May 18, 2005, Charon, and the potential moons, provisionally designated P1 and P2, all appear to rotate counterclockwise around Pluto.

P1 and P2 move less than Charon because they are farther from Pluto, and therefore would be orbiting at slower speeds. P1 and P2 are thousands of times less bright than Pluto and Charon.

The enhanced-color images of Pluto (the brightest object) and Charon (to the right of Pluto) were constructed by combining short exposure images. The images of the new satellites were made from longer exposures. Click image for full resolution.

In the short-exposure image, taken June 11, 2002, the candidate moons cannot be seen. They do, however, appear in the middle and right-hand images. Longer exposure times were used to take these images. Pluto and Charon are overexposed in these images, causing the bright streaks or "blooms" that emerge vertically from them.

The candidate moons are not overexposed because they are thousands of times less bright than Pluto and Charon. In these unprocessed images, various optical artifacts of the Advanced Camera for Surveys system are visible, such as the radial spokes of light caused by the telescope's optics.

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New Horizons Pluto Payload Ready For Flight, Exciting Science Campaign
San Antonio TX (SPX) Oct 19, 2005
The science payload for NASA's New Horizons mission completed its last major preparations for flight last week. The probe will be the first to visit Pluto and its moon, Charon.



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