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New moon on Wednesday: Pluto's tiny fifth moon is half the length of Malibu

pluto p5 fifth moon

Photo: NASA; ESA; M. Showalter, SETI Institute

This image, taken by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, shows five moons orbiting the distant, icy dwarf planet Pluto. The green circle marks the newly discovered moon, designated P5, as photographed by Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3 on July 7.

A far-out fifth moon has been discovered orbiting the distant "dwarf planet" Pluto -- the one-time planet planet demoted by Caltech's Kavali Prize-winning astrophysicist Mike Brown.

With the use of the Hubble telescope, a team of scientists spotted the smallest moon yet around Pluto, NASA announced Wednesday. 

"The moons form a series of neatly nested orbits, a bit like Russian dolls," team lead Mark Showalter of the SETI Institute in Mountain View, Calif. said in a space agency release.

The mini-moon, estimated to be 6 to 15 miles across, will be called P5 until a catchier name is decided upon. P5 is even smaller than last year's discovery of moon number four, measured at 8 to 21 miles wide. Charon, Pluto's largest moon, is about 650 miles across.

NASA's New Horizons spacecraft is speeding toward the icy object with a planned flyby in July 2015 (Pluto was still considered a full-fledged planet when the craft launched in 2006).


Caltech professor who killed Pluto wins $1M Astrophysics prize

Farthest Object In Solar System Discovered

Getty Images/Getty Images

In this Caltech handout, a rendering of the farthest object in our solar system, Sedna, is seen. Sedna is a mysterious planet-like body three times farther from Earth than Pluto. NASA held a news conference March 15, 2004 to detail the findings by a team of astronomers at Caltech led by Dr. Mike Brown.

The prestigious, $1 million Kavli Prize in Astrophysics has been co-awarded to Mike Brown, the Caltech professor and astronomer known across the galaxy as the man who killed Pluto.

Brown discovered the Kuiper-belt body at the edge of the solar system more massive than Pluto, resulting in the former planet's demotion to "dwarf planet," and a "revised the definition of our solar system," notes the Pasadena Star-News

"The un-naming of Pluto got the the attention of the larger public and he's now a well-known person not only in this country but all over the world," said Caltech President Jean-Lou Chameau. "Pluto made his work very understandable beyond the scientific community," he told the newspaper.

Brown will share the prize with co-winners David Jewitt of UCLA and Jane Luu of MIT's Lincoln Laboratory. The three were recognized for advancing the understanding of our planetary system.