Pluto spacecraft sends back pictures of bizarre moon

NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics

Pluto spacecraft sends back pictures of bizarre moon

In 2011, astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope discovered a new moon orbiting Pluto and later named it Kerberos, for the mythological god's three-headed dog. Now, the New Horizons spacecraft, which flew past Pluto in July, has sent back the first pictures of this little moon. The moon turns out to be smaller than planetary scientists expected—just 12 kilometers by 4.5 kilometers—making it even more diminutive than Deimos, the lesser moon of Mars. Moreover, the image reveals that Kerberos is double-lobed, which suggests the satellite may have formed when two even smaller moons merged. Kerberos was one of two little satellites that Star Trek actor William Shatner hoped would be named Vulcan, after the home world of Mr. Spock; although Shatner didn't get his wish, he might be pleased to know that craters on Pluto's largest moon, Charon, have been tentatively named Kirk, Spock, Sulu, and Uhura, all located in a region called Vulcan Planum.