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News Link • Space Travel and Exploration

Hubble Spots New Moon Orbiting Neptune

• by Andrew Fazekas
Known only by its temporary designation —S/20044 N1—the tiny celestial piece of real estate measures no more than 12 miles (19 kilometers) across and appears to have escaped detection until now because of its extreme faintness and far flung orbit beyond the planet’s ring fragment system known as arcs.

According to Mark Showalter, a planetary astronomer at the SETI Institute in California who discovered the moon, the newfound object is almost 100 million times fainter than the faintest star visible to the naked eye. But by tracking the movements of a mysterious white dot visible on Neptune photographs taken by Hubble between 2004 and 2009, he managed to pin down this mini-moon [OK?].

“The moons and arcs orbit very quickly, so we had to devise a way to follow their motion in order to bring out the details of the system,” he said. “It’s the same reason a sports photographer tracks a running athlete—the athlete stays in focus, but the background blurs,” said Showalter in a NASA statement.

1 Comments in Response to

Comment by Ed Price
Entered on:

Well, it's all fun and exciting, of course. But it's only 12 miles across! The largest asteroid in the asteroid belt is Ceres, which is about 590 miles in diameter. What S/20044 N1 really is, is an asteroid caught in Jupiter's gravity, and revolving around it like a moon. We'll probably find loads of these asteroids in orbit around Jupiter, once we start looking for them. After all, Jupiter is about 1000 times the size of the earth.


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