Family Portrait of Pluto's Moons
This composite image shows a sliver of Pluto's large moon, Charon, and all four of Pluto's small moons, as resolved by the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) on the New Horizons spacecraft. Image Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

It is intriguing that such a small planet can have such a complex collection of satellites. The discovery provides additional clues for unraveling how the Pluto system formed and evolved.

Pluto's entire moon system is believed to have formed by a collision between two the dwarf planet and another Kuiper Belt Object early in the history of the solar system. The smashup flung material that coalesced into the family of satellites observed around Pluto.

"The moons form a series of neatly nested orbits, a bit like Russian dolls," said Mark Showalter of the SETI Institute.

The known moons of Pluto are:

  • Charon: Discovered in 1978, this small moon is almost half the size of Pluto. It is so big Pluto and Charon are sometimes referred to as a double planet system.
  • Nix and Hydra: These small moons were found in 2005 by a Hubble Space Telescope team studying the Pluto system.
  • Kerberos: Discovered in 2011, this tiny moon is located between the orbits of Nix and Hydra.
  • Styx: Discovered in 2012, this little moon was found by a team of scientists searching for potential hazards to the New Horizons spacecraft Pluto flyby in July 2015.
How Pluto Moons Get Their Names

How Pluto Moons Get Their Names

All of Pluto's moons are named for mythological figures associated with the underworld, a naming conventions started by 11-year-old Venetia Burney in 1930

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