The new family member (nickname: P5) circles in the same plane as the other moons and has a track radius of 42, 000 kilometers. He moves between Charon, the innermost moon, and Nix. "The discovery of so many small moons indirectly tells us that the Pluto system lurks large amounts of invisible, small particles, " says Harold Weaver of Johns Hopkins University in the State of Maryland. Probably moons and debris originated ages ago in a major collision. Since collisions in the outer reaches of the solar system usually take place at relatively slow speeds, many debris could still orbit around today.
That means trouble for the NASA mission "New Horizons", which is on the way to Pluto since 2006. The probe will reach the system in summer 2015 and race past the dwarf planet at a speed of 14.3 kilometers per second. "The Pluto system inventory helps us find a safe lane for the New Horizons spacecraft, " says Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, the scientific director of the mission. According to current plans, New Horizons is scheduled to make its closest approach of approximately 9, 000 kilometers within the Charon Railway.
After the short visit, where planetary scientists will have the first opportunity to observe Pluto up close, New Horizons will travel on to another object in the so-called Kuiper Belt. In this area beyond the orbit of the planet Neptune circle numerous similar ice worlds like Pluto, which probably changed hardly since the origin of the solar system. displayCommunication from the Space Telescope Science Institute © science.de - Ute Kehse