New Horizons probe takes family photo of Pluto’s moons

Pluto moons

Pluto’s four outermost moons whirl around the dwarf planet in these images from the New Horizons spacecraft. Pluto and its largest moon Charon are hidden in the glare at the center of each image. The colors (right) mark the moons and their orbits.

JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY APPLIED PHYSICS LABORATORY, SOUTHWEST RESEARCH INSTITUTE, NASA

Pluto’s family portrait (as far as we know) is complete. The New Horizons spacecraft finally spied the dwarf planet’s two tiniest satellites, Kerberos and Styx, in a series of images taken from April 25 to May 1, when the probe was nearly 90 million kilometers from Pluto. The moons were discovered in images from the Hubble Space Telescope in 2011 and 2012.

New Horizons moves about 1.2 million kilometers closer to Pluto every day. The probe will buzz the planet — and its ensemble of five satellites — on July 14, after spending 114 months in space.  

Christopher Crockett is a freelance science writer and editor based in Arlington, Va. He has a Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of California, Los Angeles.

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