Television shows like Star Trek have opened up a world of fantasy to generations of fans. Producers told viewers of exploring new worlds and boldly going “where no man has gone before”.
Perhaps that is why scientists are so enamored with space. It is considered the final frontier, the one unexplored region that man still has questions about.
It was thoughts like this that led to the creation of the Hubble Telescope. The United States space program put a man on the moon and flew to a space station, but there were other planets out there left to explore. This telescope has helped the country to find other pieces of the universe that were once invisible to scientists. Now, the Hubble has made a discovery of a new moon which is in the orbit of the planet Neptune.
According to a National Geographic.com piece, the discovery was made on July 1, and was a speck that had not been discovered in previous searches. This new moon making its way around Neptune was spotted by the telescope and marks the fourteenth one found the be circling the blue planet.
This new moon, which has been deemed S/20044 N1, seems like it should have been detected before. That is because researchers have estimated that it is more than 12 miles across. However, in space, things are much bigger than what we see on Earth, so the moon is considered small by comparison. It also did not help that the color of the moon was so faint that it blended into space’s background. Its orbit was also quite a distance off from Neptune itself.
The question then becomes how this discovery was eventually made? As it turns out, the discovery came as the result of pictures taken by the big telescope. These pictures were not just from the past year. The photos entailed shots taken from the period 2004 through 2009. What the researchers did was notice a small white dot that was consistently visible over the series of 150 photographs. The fact that it continued to appear in each picture led to the discovery of this new mini-moon.
It is a fascinating discovery, but one that still baffles scientists. What perplexes the researchers is where this small moon might have arisen from. The most consistent theory is that one of the other fourteen moons, Triton, might have been a planet itself, but lost pieces through time. The thought is that S/20044 N1 could be a broken off piece of Triton. Though it is an orbiting moon of Neptune, Triton is as big as the moon that is visible from Earth.