Pluto has a new moon, but it’s still not a planet

pluto's moonsSure, Pluto received a bit of a demotion when its status as a planet was called into question a few years ago, but that doesn’t mean it stopped giving scientists reasons to study it. And thanks to a recent discovery by the Hubble Space Telescope, we’ve learned that the world-formerly-known-as-planet-Pluto has yet another moon orbiting it.

So does this mean Pluto’s any closer to regaining its “planet” status? Sadly, no — but it still has astronomers (of both the professional and backyard variety) buzzing.

Temporarily assigned the name “P4,” the new moon joins Charon, Hydra and Nix as the fourth member of Pluto’s satellites. P4 is the smallest of Pluto’s moons, with a diameter of only 8-21 miles, and was discovered while searching for rings around the icy world.

According to NASA researchers, the most important aspect of P4’s discovery is the realization that the powerful Hubble telescope can reveal objects that far away.

“I find it remarkable that Hubble’s cameras enabled us to see such a tiny object so clearly from a distance of more than 3 billion miles (5 billion km),” said program leader Mark Showalter of the SETI Institute.

The study of Pluto and its cosmic neighbors that revealed P4 is part of an ongoing project to gather information before NASA’s “New Horizons” robotic spacecraft reaches the far edge of our solar system. The spacecraft was launched in January 2006, and is expected to reach Pluto in 2015.

“This is a fantastic discovery,” said New Horizons’ principal investigator Alan Stern. “Now that we know there’s another moon in the Pluto system, we can plan close-up observations of it during our flyby.”

Despite the decision to remove Pluto’s “planet” status in 2006, scientists continue to study the frozen world, which is now classified as a “dwarf planet” by the International Astronomical Union. All four of its moons are believed to be the product of a collision between Pluto and another world of similar size back in the formative years of the solar system — the same type of collision believed to have given Earth its own moon, in fact.

Emerging Tech

Light-swallowing room promises Call of Duty fans the blackest of ops

What's it like to be in a room fully painted with the world's darkest material, Vantablack? The makers of one of the year's top video games teamed up with Vantablack scientists to find out.
Home Theater

The best movies on Netflix in October, from 'The Witch’ to ‘Black Panther’

Save yourself from hours wasted scrolling through Netflix's massive library by checking out our picks for the streamer's best movies available right now, whether you're into explosive action, subdued humor, or anything in between.

Your PlayStation 4 game library isn't complete without these games

Looking for the best PS4 games out there? Out of the massive crop of titles available, we selected the best you should buy. No matter what your genre of choice may be, there's something here for you.

These are the best Xbox One games out right now

More than four years into its lifespan, Microsoft's latest console is finally coming into its own. From 'Cuphead' to 'Halo 5,' the best Xbox One games offer something for everyone.

Apple Mac users should take a bite out of these awesome games

Contrary to popular belief, there exists a bevy of popular A-list games compatible for Mac computers. Take a look at our picks for the best Mac games available for Apple fans.

Skydio’s self-flying drone now has an Apple Watch app for flight prep

Skydio's clever R1 autonomous drone now has its own Apple Watch app, making flight preparations simpler than ever. The $2,000 flying machine is now also selling at its first retail outlet — Apple Stores in North America.
Emerging Tech

Scientists created a condom that self-lubricates during sex. You’re welcome

Researchers from Boston University have invented a special coating for condoms which make them respond to bodily fluids by becoming more slippery. Here's how their new breakthrough works.
Emerging Tech

Are e-cigarettes safe? Here’s what the most recent science says

Ecigarettes are widely regarded and advertised as a healthier alternative to cigarettes for people who are trying to kick the smoking habit. How safe are these cigarette alternatives? We went deep into the recent scientific literature to…
Emerging Tech

You’re so vein: Palm-based biometric system could help confirm your identity

Move over, Face ID! The next biometric security systems could rely on analyzing the unique vein patterns in your palm print. Here are some of the ways the technology could prove useful.
Emerging Tech

For only $4,950, you can get jetpack lessons from the world’s only instructor

Have you ever dreamed of flying using a jetpack? JetPack Aviation founder -- and the world's only qualified jetpack teacher -- David Mayman is now offering a day of flight instruction.
Emerging Tech

Biologists have found a hormone that could make space farming possible

Researchers have shown how space farming may be possible. By encouraging plants to excrete a certain hormone, they’ve demonstrated that crops can thrive despite challenging conditions, such as low-nutrient soil and microgravity.
Emerging Tech

Keep your holiday gift list high tech and under budget with these gadgets

Modern technology doesn't always come cheap, but there plenty of premium devices that don't carry a premium price. Whether you're looking for a streaming device or a means of capturing photos from above, our list of the best tech under $50…
Emerging Tech

When tech goes wrong: Banksy’s shredder was meant to totally destroy his artwork

Banksy's recent auction stunt was meant to totally destroy one of his most famous pieces of work, but a fault with the shredder has left the buyer with something almost certainly worth far more than the $1 million she bid for it.
Emerging Tech

The best drone photos from around the world

Most of today's drones come equipped with high-end cameras, which are quickly revolutionizing the world of aerial photography as we know it. Here are some of the best drone photos from around the world.