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Data From New Horizons Mission Reveals Extremely 'Unusual' Characteristic of Pluto's Moons


It's unlike almost anything scientists have ever seen in the galaxy.

The moons orbiting Pluto spin and don't keep one face pointed toward the dwarf planet they orbit, NASA announced Monday.

The space agency said that data from the New Horizons mission revealed that four of Pluto's largest moons fail to rotate in sync with the planet.

"The New Horizons mission also is shedding new light on Pluto’s fascinating system of moons, and their unusual properties," a press release said. "For example, nearly every other moon in the solar system — including Earth’s moon — is in synchronous rotation, keeping one face toward the planet. This is not the case for Pluto’s small moons."

Pluto's moons spin fast, with most distant moon Hydra rotating an "unprecedented" 89 times during one orbit around the planet, according to NASA.

“Pluto’s moons behave like spinning tops,”  co-investigator Mark Showalter of the SETI Institute said in a statement.


NASA also said new data revealed that many of Pluto's moons may have been formed during collisions with others.

“We suspect from this that Pluto had more moons in the past, in the aftermath of the big impact that also created Charon,” Showalter said.

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