Tags: pluto | moons | nix | hydra | chaotic | orbit

Pluto Moons: Study Details Football-Shaped Bodies' Erratic Orbits

Image: Pluto Moons: Study Details Football-Shaped Bodies' Erratic Orbits
Numerical Simulation of Nix's Rotation. (NASA.gov Video)

By    |   Thursday, 04 Jun 2015 10:57 AM

Pluto’s moons Nix and Hydra, unlike the Earth’s single moon, orbit in an unpredictable direction, according to new data collected from the Hubble telescope.

It's their football shapes that cause Pluto’s two moons to spin so chaotically around the dwarf planet, the new analysis, published this week in the journal Nature, reported.

"Like good children, our moon and most others keep one face focused attentively on their parent planet," study co-author Douglas Hamilton, a professor of astronomy at the University of Maryland, shared in a release. "What we've learned is that Pluto's moons are more like ornery teenagers who refuse to follow the rules."

A video released on NASA’s YouTube channel virtually shows the disorderly movement of Nix’s rotation.

The strange orbit patterns of Pluto’s moons are because of the dynamically shifting gravitational pull created between Pluto and Charon, CNET.com reported. It was long believed that Charon was Pluto’s only moon, however in the past decade astronomers have found four minor moons orbiting what is really a binary planet system.

Other than providing new insight into one of our solar system’s most wild areas, these recent discoveries will also inform the New Horizons spacecraft’s fly-by of the region this coming month. It could also be useful to understanding how distant planets revolve around binary star systems, CNET.com noted.

"We are learning that chaos may be a common trait of binary systems," Hamilton said. "It might even have consequences for life on planets orbiting binary stars."



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Pluto’s moons Nix and Hydra, unlike the Earth’s single moon, orbit in an unpredictable direction, according to new data collected from the Hubble telescope.
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2015-57-04
Thursday, 04 Jun 2015 10:57 AM
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