Moons dance around Pluto
Moons dance around Pluto This illustration depicts Pluto and its five moons from a perspective looking away from the sun (AP photos)
Moons dance around Pluto
Lexile: 880L
Lexile

Assign to Google Classroom

There's a chaotic dance going on at the far end of our solar system. It involves Pluto and five of its closest friends, a study finds.

Hubble Space Telescope images of Pluto, its largest moon Charon and tinier moons Styx, Nix, Hydra and Kerberos show the odd rhythmic gyrations of the six distant objects. It's like a dance. But it is unlike anything in our solar system.

What makes it so odd is that there's a double set of dances going on. First, Pluto and Charon are locked together in their own waltz. It is "as if they are a dumbbell" with a rod connecting them. That is according to study author Mark Showalter of the SETI Institute in California. It's the solar system's only binary planet system, even though Charon isn't technically a planet, he said. Pluto, too, is no longer considered a full planet.

"It's pretty darn weird," Showalter said.

But Pluto and Charon aren't alone. And that's where it gets more complicated.

The four little moons circle the Pluto-Charon combo. They wobble a bit when they go closer to either Pluto or Charon. They are being pushed and pulled by the two bigger objects.

Those four moons orbit Pluto-Charon in a precise rhythmic way. But there is a twist. They also interact when they near each other. So it seems like they all dance to one overarching beat but not quite in the same way. They are just doing their own thing, said planetary scientist Heidi Hammel of the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy.

"It's kind of like you'd see at a Grateful Dead concert," Hammel said. She wasn't part of the study. But she praised it as giving a glimpse of what might be happening in other distant star systems where there are two stars and planets that revolve around them. It is like the mythical Star Wars world of Tatooine.

With the tiny moons wobbling and flipping over in an unpredictable and chaotic way, if you lived on Nix or Hydra, the sun would come up in different parts of the sky. If at all on some days, Showalter said.

"It's a very strange world," he said. "You would literally not know if the sun is coming up tomorrow."

NASA's $700 million New Horizons spacecraft will arrive in the Pluto system in mid-July. It has been on a nine-year 3 billion mile flight. It began before Pluto was demoted to dwarf-planet status.

Critical thinking challenge: Why are the moons movements referred to as a dance?

Source URL: https://www.tweentribune.com/article/tween56/moons-dance-around-pluto/

Assigned 67 times


COMMENTS (39)
  • MCS2001softball
    6/11/2015 - 08:40 a.m.

    I think it is amazing that modern science can get these images and figure out what's going on with many planets or other bodies are doing around the solar system. It is even amazing that we can have a satellite/ rover that is going to be able to get to Pluto and see what's really going on. These could all lead to huge outer space studies and everyone should be excited for this.

  • Ze20010501
    6/11/2015 - 01:03 p.m.

    The moons movement is like dancing because it always moving around the earth so that's why you can consider that the moon is referred as dancing

  • b.m2001empire
    6/11/2015 - 01:19 p.m.

    The moon's movement is referred to as dancing because it show the odd rhythmic gyrations of the six distant objects. This is why they call the moon's movements a dance.

  • Swilliams8@ims.com
    6/11/2015 - 03:45 p.m.

    Wow that was a weird article, I never new Pluto had moons especially not dancing around it. I wonder what they look like up close or if it would be funny, scary, or awesome. It's weird that it takes so long to get to other planets but they look so close.

  • Eugene0808-YYCA
    6/11/2015 - 05:08 p.m.

    I think this is weird because I never knew that the dwarf planets would be able to go into a movement that astronomers call "dancing". I never knew that the dwarf planets would be able to do so because I never thought of it and I did not think it was possible. That is very weird and I hope astronomers get more information from NASA's New Horizons spacecraft. It would be interesting to know why the dwarf planets are "dancing".
    Critical thinking challenge: Why are the moons movements referred to as a dance?
    The moons' movements are referred to as a "dance" because they are moving in a rhythmic movement.

  • LaurenT-5
    6/11/2015 - 07:48 p.m.

    This article is about how the Hubble Space Telescope has discovered that Pluto and five other moons have been revolving around sort of like a dance, and is very unusual. Pluto and Charon have been "waltzing" around each other and seem like they are connected to each other. People think it's like a rod is stuck in-between them, which is unlike anything they have seen. Those two are not alone with the mysterious dancing. Four other little moons are orbiting Pluto and Charon as well. They are interacting with each other. NASA's $700 million New Horizons spacecraft will arrive in the Pluto system and will be on a nine year three billion mile flight in investigate. I think this article was really fun to learn about.

  • ConnorK-2
    6/11/2015 - 11:08 p.m.

    Two graceful dances are currently going on in space, but one of the dances can be considered chaotic. The dwarf planet, Pluto, is in a "dance" with one of its moons, Charon. Both of these are interlocked in their own peaceful waltz, but Pluto's other moons seem to be jealous. When the four other moons get close to the two rocks, they start flipping and spinning. This is caused by the gravitational forces that pull and stretch the other moons. If humans were to live on any of the four moons that are being distorted, people would never know when the sun would rise or fall because of the unpredictability of the rotation. I find these planetary dances to be very bizarre and weird.

  • LucasH-3
    6/12/2015 - 01:26 a.m.

    There's a chaotic dance going on at the far end of our solar system. It involves Pluto and five of its closest friends, a study finds.NASA's $700 million New Horizons spacecraft will arrive in the Pluto system in mid-July. It has been on a nine-year 3 billion mile flight. It began before Pluto was demoted to dwarf-planet status.

  • CharlieW-1
    6/12/2015 - 02:33 a.m.

    Pluto and its moons have a strange dance like rotation. It is pretty much locked together with its biggest moon, Charon. Because of it, they never change position relative to eachother. Pluto's four smaller moons, Styx, Nix, Hydra, and Kerberos, orbit both Pluto and Charon in strange wags. Sometimes on these moons, the sun wouldn't even come up.

    I liked this article, this is a really weird thin and I hope the spacecraft sent to Pluto will get some answers.

  • DunhamS-4
    6/12/2015 - 11:10 a.m.

    This article was about the dance that plutos moons are doing. It is extremely odd because NASA has never observed a phenomena like this. It is almost unexplainable. The moons seem to be caught in some sort of other orbit. But, for now it seems like this is still going unexplained.

Take the Quiz Leave a comment
ADVERTISEMENT