New Horizons Spacecraft Snaps Pictures of Pluto’s Moon Hydra
HAIL HYDRA. (Come on. You knew it was coming.)
Pluto may not be a planet anymore, but at least its moons haven’t abandoned it. It has five that we know about. So, you know, whatever, Earth and your one moon. Pluto doesn’t even care about being a planet. Actually, New Horizons is on the lookout for Pluto’s moons in case any we don’t know about pose a danger to the mission, and it just got close enough to detect one of the ones we do know about: Hydra.
Hydra is the second-largest of Pluto’s moons at a diameter of 114 km, and New Horizons was able to take some pictures of it as the spacecraft draws closer to its rendezvous with the Kuiper belt’s famous non-planet.
It’s a distant, faint view for the time being, but the New Horizons team is excited to see that the spacecraft’s instruments are functioning properly. New Horizons Science Team member John Spencer, of the Southwest Research Institute, said in NASA’s release, “We’re thrilled to see it, because it shows that our satellite-search techniques work, and that our camera is operating superbly. But it’s also exciting just to see a third member of the Pluto system come into view, as proof that we’re almost there!”
Hopefully any potentially dangerous, unknown moons will be detected well in advance so that New Horizons can avoid them. The spacecraft will make its closest approach to Pluto on July 14, 2015 on its mission to investigate the planet and the rest of the Kuiper belt, so we’ll be getting a much better look at Pluto and its moons in the fairly near future. Maybe we’ll finally even get an image of Hydra that’s big enough to superimpose the HYDRA logo onto, because you know we’re going to.
- Here’s a video of Pluto and its other moon, Charon
- The head of New Horizons wanted to debate Neil deGrasse Tyson on Pluto’s planethood
- There’s possibly a lot of debris floating around Pluto