How many moons does Pluto have?
Pluto, a dwarf planet, has five known moons. They are, in order of distance from Pluto, Charon, Styx, Nix, Kerberos, and Hydra. The largest of Pluto’s five moons is Charon. Interestingly, Chardon is mutually tidally locked with Pluto and is massive enough that Pluto–Charon is sometimes considered a double object.
Pluto Has Five Moons: Charon, Styx, Nix, Kerberos, and Hydra
Is Pluto bigger than the Earth’s Moon?
Pluto was discovered in 1930 and was originally classified as the ninth planet from the Sun. Pluto is composed primarily of rock and ice and is small compared to each of the other planets in our solar system. Pluto is approximately one-sixth the mass of the Earth’s Moon and one-third its volume. Pretty neat!
History of Pluto’s moons
Charon, the innermost and largest moon, was discovered by James Christy on June 22, 1978. Interestingly, this discovery came nearly half a century after the discovery of Pluto itself despite Charon’s size! In May 2005, the Hubble Space Telescope Pluto Companion Search Team discovered two more of Pluto’s moons, and them named them Nix and Hydra in reference to the New Horizons mission. The last two of the known moons are Kerberos and Styx, and were discovered in 2011 and 2012, respectively.
Could Pluto have other moons?
Yes! As mentioned above, four of Pluto’s five moons have been discovered since the turn of the century. Theoretical simulations suggest that Pluto may have as many as 10 moons and one or more ring systems.
How did Pluto’s moons get there?
We don’t know for sure, but it is suspected that Pluto’s satellite system was created by a massive collision. This is similar to the “big whack” believed to have created the Earth’s Moon. Such an impact would be expected to create additional moons, but these potential moons were not detected by Hubble and must be relatively small.
What are the colors of Pluto’s moons?
The color of each of Pluto’s moons is a lunar grey, which is consistent with a common origin. Their difference in color from Pluto, one of the reddest bodies in our solar system due to the effects of sunlight on the nitrogen and methane ices of its surface, may be due to a loss of such volatiles during the “big whack” impact mentioned above or subsequent coalescence, leaving the surfaces of the moons dominated by water ice.
Moon Phases, Full Moons and Moon Calendars
As the Moon orbits Earth, it changes phase in an orderly way. Follow these links to understand the various phases of the moon.