Pluto ~ Five Moons

Pluto and Its Moons: Charon, Nix, and Hydra. A pair of small moons that NASA's Hubble Space Telescope discovered orbiting Pluto now have official names: Nix and Hydra. Photo Courtesy of NASA

 Pluto, minor-planet designation 134340 Pluto, is the largest object in the Kuiper belt, and the tenth-most-massive body observed directly orbiting the Sun. It is the second-most-massive known dwarf planet, after Eris. Like other Kuiper-belt objects, Pluto is composed primarily of rock and ice and is relatively small, approximately one-sixth the mass of the Moon and one-third its volume. It has an eccentric and highly inclined orbit that takes it from 30 to 49 AU (4.4–7.4 billion km) from the Sun. This causes Pluto to periodically come closer to the Sun than Neptune. As of 2014, it is 32.6 AU from the Sun.

Discovered in 1930, Pluto was originally classified as the ninth planet from the Sun. However, its status as a major planet fell into question following further study of it and the outer Solar System over the ensuing 75 years. Starting in 1977 with discovery of minor planet 2060 Chiron, numerous icy objects similar to Pluto with eccentric orbits were found. The most notable of these was the scattered disc object Eris—discovered in 2005, which is 27% more massive than Pluto. The understanding that Pluto is only one of several large icy bodies in the outer Solar System prompted the International Astronomical Union (IAU) to formally define what it means to be a "planet" in 2006. This definition excluded Pluto and reclassified it as a member of the new "dwarf planet" category (and specifically as a plutoid). A number of scientists hold that Pluto should have remained classified as a planet, and that other dwarf planets should be added to the roster of planets along with Pluto.

Pluto has five known moons: Charon (the largest, with a diameter just over half that of Pluto), Nix, Hydra, Kerberos, and Styx. Pluto and Charon are sometimes described as a binary system because the barycenter of their orbits does not lie within either body. However, the IAU has yet to formalize a definition for binary dwarf planets, and as such Charon is officially classified as a moon of Pluto

Artist’s impression of how the surface of Pluto might look, according to one of the two models that a team of astronomers has developed to account for the observed properties of Pluto’s atmosphere, as studied with CRIRES. The image shows patches of pure methane on the surface. At the distance of Pluto, the Sun appears about 1000 times fainter than on Earth. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Computer-generated map of Pluto from Hubble images, synthesized true color[a] and among the highest resolutions possible with current technology.

Pluto's orbit and the ecliptic.

Orbit of Pluto—ecliptic view. This "side view" of Pluto's orbit (in red) shows its large inclination to Earth's ecliptic orbital plane.

The Pluto system: Pluto, Charon, Nix, Hydra, Kerberos, and Styx, taken by the Hubble Space Telescope in July 2012. Click on image for full size

A Little Conspiracy into the Mix...

Using a still Top Secret imaging system, the ROC Team had a close look at NIX..

"This is what we see at 12 O'Clock....  Now if that's not a some kind of space craft...then, the Pope 'ain't Catholic! There are what we believe are multiple space craft in Nix' atmosphere...Here's the one at 12 O'clock found using IMMI, sure looks like one of Spielberg's 'x' wing fighters to us.." - Joe Resnick

"I forgot to add this to the posting about Comet 67P.... This is what we found circling Nix in the Pluto System. You tell me what it is...because I don't know? It looks like a space ship from the movies...but it's not. We found this in a photo taken by Hubble...and pointed toward the Pluto System...." - Joe Resnick

John T. Fountain Sr.  "Closeup with contour mapping on."

John T. Fountain Sr.  "Closeup @ 10000 x 100374 pixels...."

This followed on the interesting images 'leaked' out by Hubble of the Comet ISON

Comet C/2012 S1 (ISON) Hubble, 2013 Apr 30

Now Hubble has since 'explained' how this happened...

What's going on with the Comet C/2012 S1 (ISON) images?

"Some bloggers have noted that the Comet C/2012 S1 (ISON) Hubble images have some surprising features. Here we briefly explain the origin of the image structures.

Quick summary: The image is the result of combining 3 exposures that produce the 3 components, and the shapes are produced by the combined motion of the Hubble telescope and the comet. The images look exactly as expected."

I suppose we will just have to take their word for it... 

Another odd one... this one supposedly a "Comet Like Asteroid"

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Pluto ~ Five Moons