New Pluto Moon Hints at Perilous Journey for Spacecraft
The discovery of another moon around Pluto is exciting news for planetary science, but it’s also likely causing some anxiety for the team in charge of New Horizons, a spacecraft set to be the first probe ever to visit the dwarf planet. Researchers using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope announced the detection of P5, a tiny moon measuring just 6 to 15 miles (10 to 24 kilometers) across. P5 brings Pluto’s known satellite tally to five, and it comes just a year after Hubble spotted moon number four, the similarly diminutive P4. These two recent discoveries show that the Pluto system is more crowded than scientists had thought. So NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, which is due to fly by the dwarf planet in 2015, may have to watch its step.