Pictures of Styx and Kerberos, the smallest and the dimmest out of five known moons in Pluto have been captured for the first time by the New Horizons spacecraft. NASA publicized the images on Wednesday, indicating a purpose in the spacecraft’s voyage.
New Horizon’s is slowly getting nearer to Pluto, and it has already seen five of its moons, any further moons it detects might have not been seen before, according to John Spencer, a mission science team member from the Southwest Research Institute. It will begin looking for rings and new moons that might hamper its way through Pluto’s system.
The two moons were revealed in 2011 and 2012. were first observed using the Hubble Space Telescope by the New Horizons team. Styx rotates around Pluto in 20-day intervals, passing between the orbits of Charon and Nix. In contrast, Kerberos circles between Hydra and Nix and measures between six and 20 miles in diameter. Styx is smaller than Kerberos at only 4 to 13 miles in diameter. But both are between 20 to 3o times paler than Hydra and Nix.
The Long Range Reconnaissance Imager or LORRI, onboard New Horizons took images of Styx and Kerberos. From April 25 to May 1 NASA released images which were formed from five exposures lasting for 10 seconds each. Broad processing should be done to lessen bright glares from Charon and Pluto and show the orbits and placement of the moons.
Styx and Kerberos were clearer than other moons in some of the captured frames because of variations in the brightness produced by revolving on axes. Nonetheless, the moons were confirmed as they were in the right place where they expected them to be.
Alan Stern, principal investigator for New Horizons from the Southwest Research Institute said it is remarkable to be able to spot such small moons given a distance of over 55 million miles. He also praises the team responsible for creating LORRI and John Spencer’s team with the accomplishment.
The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory planned and created New Horizons .The APL also controls the spacecraft, running the mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. New Horizons is part in the New Frontiers Program supervised by the Marshal Space Flight Center.