Once upon a time, there were nine planets in the solar system. Then astronomers decided to remove Pluto from the equation, describing the smallest and most distant planet in the solar system as something more like a moon and less like an actual planet. Well, scientists are taking a second look at the lone planet, because Pluto seems to have more secrets than we’ve given it credit for. The Hubble Space Telescope has discovered a fifth moon orbiting around Pluto.
“The moons form a series of neatly nested orbits, a bit like Russian dolls,” said Mark Showalter, the leader of the SETI Institute team that found the images of the fifth moon. ”This is a very tidy system, and what that means is, it’s an orbitally evolved system. Literally there are shells where the orbits are stable.”
The moon, which hasn’t been named yet, was given the provisional name S/2012 (134340) 1, which has been shortened to P5. Pluto already has four moons: Charon, Hydra, Nix, and the unnamed P4. Scientists are holding off naming the fourth and fifth moons of Pluto due to the upcoming New Horizons space probe mission, which has the potential to discover even more moons for Pluto. After all, while the Hubble can see far away, there’s no better vantage point than getting nice and close.
The Hubble Space Telescope has captured what astronomers are claiming is the oldest galaxy in the universe. Here’s some of what NASA’s Hubble website says about the discovery
“The farthest and one of the very earliest galaxies ever seen in the universe appears as a faint red blob in this ultra-deep–field exposure taken with NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope. This is the deepest infrared image taken of the universe. Based on the object’s color, astronomers believe it is 13.2 billion light-years away.
The dim object is a compact galaxy of blue stars that existed 480 million years after the Big Bang, only four percent of the universe’s current age. It is tiny and considered a building block of today’s giant galaxies. Over one hundred such mini-galaxies would be needed to make up our Milky Way galaxy.”
Think of that – the light from this object we’re seeing now took 13.2 billion years to reach our eyes. That’s mind-boggling. We’re actually looking back in time. Anyway, the study which appears in the journal Nature, was led by Rychard Bouwens at the Leiden Observatory in the Netherlands, and Garth Illingworth, of the University of California, Santa Cruz. The tiny smudge of light will be further studied and confirmed when the infrared-optimized James Webb Space Telescope is up and running in 2014.
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