Five Moons of Pluto!

Hey hey! Happy Friday! This isn’t really apropos of anything, but all of the talk about Mercury this week has got me thinking the previous holder of the record for smallest planet in the solar sytem: Pluto! In the last few years, with help from Hubble, and, especially, from New Horizons, which flew through the Pluto system in July 2015, we keep learning more and more about it.

If you’re keeping score at home, New Horizons is screaming away from the sun at about 32,000 miles per hour and is over 3.5 billion miles from home. That’s over 38 times farther from the sun than Earth is.

It’s making its way to meeting up with the Kuiper Belt Object 2014 MU69 on New Year’s Day 2019, and is about 5 AU, or about 465 million miles, from Pluto. That’s about as far from Pluto as Jupiter is from the sun, on average. AU is the abbreviation for “astronomical unit,” the average Sun-Earth distance; about 92.9 million miles. Interestingly enough, because of the way the planets are aligned at the moment, New Horizons is actually a little closer to the sun than to Earth.

As it turns out, Pluto has five moons, the same number I remember Uranus having when I was a kid; one big and round, four small and weirdly shaped. [Insert Uranus joke here]. In most-easily-remembered-by-me order, Pluto’s moons are:

1. Charon
2. Kerberos
3. Styx
4. Nix
5. Hydra

Pluto's Moons (from NASA)
Pluto’s Moons (from NASA)

Bon weekend, everyone!

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