New Moon Over Neptune
It’s not just Pluto that’s getting new moons. The same spacecraft—in fact, the same scientist—that discovered two new moons orbiting Pluto has now spotted a new satellite around Neptune, boosting its total retinue of known moons to 14 and further proving the power of the Hubble Space Telescope. Astronomers glimpsed Neptune’s first and largest satellite, Triton, shortly after the planet’s 1846 discovery, but more than a century elapsed before they sighted its second. In 1989, the Voyager 2 spacecraft flew past Neptune and quadrupled the number known, so during the 1990s the eighth planet from the sun had eight known satellites. Searches during the 21st century raised the figure further. Despite the new discovery (circled in yellow), Neptune’s moon count lags the other giant planets, but that may simply be because it’s farther and its moons are harder to see. The new satellite is the smallest ever seen around Neptune, but surely the greatest question confronting scientists: Will William Shatner succeed in getting this one named Vulcan?
| image: NASA, ESA