Pluto May Hold Key To Discovering Alien WorldsBy: Richard Stalker - June 20, 2012
A recent space discovery has turned some heads. The once 9th planet that we all miss has a hidden moon that no one knew about until recently. Last year scientists decided to point the Hubble Space Telescope at the not forgotten furthest neighbor uncovered a new solar body that is stuck in between Pluto and it’s sister Charon. The new moon owns the title P-4 being that it is the 4th such moon orbiting Pluto.
“I was very surprised that they found a new moon in between the other two. It basically meant that it was getting kicked around by these other moon. I thought about what the effects of being kicked around like that and wondered what we could learn about them,” astronomer Andrew Youdin, with the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics told Discovery News. “This is generally an issue with extrasolar planets,” he added. “One tries to study the stability of their orbits over time scales of billions of years.”
What makes this discovery so special is that the whole system takes up less room than the span between Earth and our moon. Providing a delicate orbital ballet that has implications for finding planets around dual-star systems beyond the solar system. Basically by studying the way the Pluto and its moons interact with each others gravity, we can blow up the calculations to better help us find planets outside our own solar system.
The scientists are setting up a computer simulation to help them out, but they only need to wait a little longer because next year NASA is launching the New Horizons probe to the outer corner of the solar system to study Pluto, Charon and the small moons, as well as other objects in the Kuiper Belt region. “We’ll know in a few years if we’re right or wrong,” Youdin said. “You can study the (moons’) motion through images by Hubble, but it is not as precise as what you can find by going there even on a single flyby.”
Here is a zoomed in photo from Hubble showing Pluto and its 4 moons: