The recent discovery of a new Pluto moon has excited space scientists. The news has also thrilled NASA and space enthusiasts alike. The findings were reported on July 11, 2012, courtesy of NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope. According to the galactic unit, P5 was detected as yet another moon of Pluto. The moon, however, is considered somewhat tiny. In fact, it only stretches about 6 to 15 miles wide. Still, the discovery has brought much excitement to the international space exploration community. That brings Pluto’s satellite count to 5, which follow up on the discovery of the P4 moon about a year ago.
The new Pluto moon is located Northwest of its icy home planet. This position, however, is based on horizontal shots taken by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope. With all the excitement surrounding the new discovery, there is also a sense of anxiety within the New Horizons team. This team is currently overseeing the first probe that will visit Pluto. The aircraft is set to launch sometime in 2015. According to scientists, however, the Pluto system is more overcrowded than they initially perceived. As a result, the team is carefully monitoring all options to ensure a safe and successful project.
While the New Horizons project has been around since 2006, it’s new probe mission may face some hidden challenges and dangers. This is courtesy of the broad debris field that blankets Pluto’s moons. While previous probes have never slammed into the icy dwarf planets, scientists are beginning to wonder about the volume of debris. The addition of a new Pluto moon only adds to the uncertainty and fear. Still, experts believe the probe will travel at faster speeds that can hopefully elude any physical contact. The fear, however, is that even the smallest form of debris can damage and even render the probe useless.
With billions poured into the exploration of Pluto, scientists and engineers are burning the midnight oil with viable options and choices. The main concern is to prevent the probe from making physical contact with any of Pluto’s satellites. According to Allan Stern, SETI investigator, the team is working overtime to ensure safe trajectory for the probe. Since debris is now the main concern, the right navigational path can certainly procure timely and effective results. To get a better handle on the challenges New Horizons faces, the team is also employing bail out plans across the board. This, of course, will be put into fruition in case the probe is not able to get out of harm’s way.
Even with all the safety measures being implemented, the team is still enthralled about the endless possibilities of the probe. With the new Pluto moon, the pieces surrounding this mysterious planet are now falling in place. In fact, previous images have shown a more defined atmosphere, along with polar caps and possibly more moons. While the project is still three years away, the new Pluto moon discovery only adds to the excitement and mystique of the upcoming New Horizons space probe project.