Pluto’s overall image is now complete after New Horizons, NASA’s main spacecraft has taken several photos of its tiniest celestial satellite Kerberos. Even if the space object looks rather unclear from a distance, the sequence of pictures is offering researchers tons of information regarding its structure. The moon seems to be more compact than experts predicted it to be in past analysis and has an extremely reflective area, countering forecasts made before Pluto flyby during this summer.
Studied by the spacecraft this week, Kerberos presents a double-lobed form, with its bigger lobe roughly 5 miles in width and the small sized lobe having a size of around 3 miles. The uncommon form has researchers thinking that it might have been created from the combination of two small moons. This phenomenon is a normal one in the history of the universe, many celestial objects being created from energy and matter coming from bigger stars and planets or from the merging of two or more smaller objects.
Kerberos’ reflectivity, just like Pluto’s other satellites, would indicate that it is cover with frozen water. Initially, researchers have used the Hubble telescope’s pictures to estimate Kerberos’s weight by calculating its gravitational effect on its nearby moons. The impact was amazingly powerful, making astronomers to imagine that Kerberos is relatively huge and heavy, seeming small only because its area was coated with black materials.
The majority of the interest shown until now by scientists has been directed on Pluto’s other celestial satellite Charon, this being by far the biggest with a size of 750 miles. Hydra and Nix have similar dimensions, roughly 20 miles across their length. Styx and Kerberos are a lot more compact and have similar sizes, around 6 miles across their length. All of Pluto’s smaller moons have extremely pointed forms, an attribute believed to be common of little systems inside the Kuiper Belt.
The next focus for NASA’s spacecraft is MU69, a little Kuiper Belt space object at a distance of around one billion miles. To guide it directly there, the first of many operations was completed this week. A pair of the spacecraft’s little hydrazine boosters was used to modify New Horizons velocity with about 30 feet per second. After these preliminary operations will be performed, the spacecraft’s direction will be shifted by roughly 180 feet per second, propelling it towards a potential near trajectory with MU69 in 2019. This flyby will be a very important part of a prolonged objective that NASA has to accept in the next couple of years. The New Horizons group will send an official offer to the US space agency for a space objective at the beginning of 2017.
Image source: Phys.org