NASA's New Horizons Sends First Pictures of Pluto's Small Moons
Today is the 85th anniversary of our discovery of the icy dwarf planet Pluto, and to celebrate, NASA's New Horizons spacecraft has sent back the first pictures of Pluto's elusive small moons, Nix and Hydra.
These long-exposure images depict Nix and Hydra at varying distances, from approximately 125 million to 115 million miles away. On the left, they are just barely visible against the glare of Pluto and its larger moon, Charon, and are set against a backdroo of stars. On the right, the glare has been removed, as well as the background stars.
"It's thrilling to watch the details of the Pluto system emerge as we close the distance to the spacecraft's July 14 encounter," said New Horizons team member John Spencer. "This first good view of Nix and Hydra marks another major milestone, and a perfect way to celebrate the anniversary of Pluto's discovery."
Here are the New Horizons images assembled into a seven-frame movie:
Hydra is the furthest moon from Pluto, orbiting the planet every 38 days, while Nix completes its orbit every 25 days. The smallest moons, Styx and Kerberos, still cannot be seen in these images, but they will likely appear in images by New Horizons in the next few months as it continues its journey to Pluto.