Neptune, the eighth planet circling the Sun in our solar system, has another moon, according to NASA. The agency’s Hubble Space Telescope discovered what is now known to be the 14th moon orbiting the planet.
NASA releases details about Neptune’s new moon
The new moon is referred to as S/2004 N 1, and it’s believed to be less than 12 miles across, which would mean it’s the smallest moon that has been discovered in Neptune’s orbit. According to NASA, the moon is about “100 million times fainter than the faintest star that can be seen with the naked eye.” Even the Voyager 2, the NASA probe which sailed past Neptune in 1989 missed seeing this moon.
The moon was discovered by Mark Showalter of the SETI Institute earlier this month. He was examining the parts of Neptune’s rings. He said since the planet’s arcs and moons orbit so quickly, they had to find a way to track their motion in order to fully understand the system’s details.
Neptune’s moons tracked by NASA
Showalter discovered the white dot now known as S/2004 N 1, which goes around Neptune every 23 hours. He said the moon is located about 65,400 miles from the planet Neptune, and it appears numerous times in the more than 150 photos taken by the Hubble Space Telescope between 2004 and 2009.
Shatner’s quest to have a moon named "Vulcan”
The LA Times’ Karen Kaplan reminds us of efforts spearheaded by the actor William Shatner, who’s best known for his role as Captain James T. Kirk on the long-running original Star Trek series. He was apparently trying to get a moon in our solar system to be named Vulcan in honor of the home planet of actor Leonard Nimoy’s character Spock.
Shatner tweeted this week that he’d heard of NASA’s discovery, but that the moons of our solar system are going to be named for Greek mythological water deities. Just weeks ago there was an online campaign for one of the two new moons discovered orbiting Pluto to be named Vulcan, but the name was not chosen because it didn’t fit in with the mythological planning regarding names.
Of course Vulcan is the Roman god of fire, which would definitely clash with Neptune, the Roman god of the sea. Also the other 13 moons found orbiting Neptune all have water-related names.