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New Moon Found Orbiting Neptune 120

Posted by Soulskill
from the welcome-to-the-party dept.
Dave Knott writes "A tiny, previously unknown moon circling Neptune has been spotted by astronomers using the Hubble telescope. The moon, which is currently known as S/2004 N1, was found on July 1 by Mark Showalter of the SETI Institute in Mountain View, Calif., NASA announced Monday. It is less than 20 kilometres wide and its orbit is 105,000 kilometres from Neptune, between those of Larissa and Proteus, two of Neptune's other 14 known moons. It circles Neptune once every 23 hours."
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New Moon Found Orbiting Neptune

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  • But wait... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ls671 (1122017) on Wednesday July 17, 2013 @04:02AM (#44306157) Homepage

    Since Pluto is not a planet anymore, we shouldn't be allowed to call a 20 km wide rock a moon. Let's have a big convention to decide how we should call it.

    • by JaredOfEuropa (526365) on Wednesday July 17, 2013 @04:05AM (#44306161) Journal
      A space station?
    • Re:But wait... (Score:5, Informative)

      by dltaylor (7510) on Wednesday July 17, 2013 @04:15AM (#44306193)

      The dividing line between "moons" and "rings" seems to be shared orbits, otherwise every little rock and/or ice ball in the outer planets' rings would have to be a "moon". A 20 km rock (or whatever) has enough gravity to sweep the space through which it passes, either clustering smaller bits into rings, adding them to its mass, or ejecting them from the planetary system.

      Remember, Pluto was only a "planet" because we didn't realize it was an instance of a much larger class of KBOs. Now it appears to be more like a cluster of bits orbiting a mutual center, different from the planets and their moons, which have an orbital center deep inside the respective planets. Even without the companion bits, though, it's still a KBO.

      We had already separated the "asteroids" from the 8 planets.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Remember, Pluto was only a "planet" because we didn't realize it was an instance of a much larger class of KBOs. Now it appears to be more like a cluster of bits orbiting a mutual center, different from the planets and their moons, which have an orbital center deep inside the respective planets. Even without the companion bits, though, it's still a KBO.

        Also, we once found a "planet" (Ceres) between Mars and Jupiter, and then another (Pallas), and then came Vesta and Hygiea. And then we realized that what was in between Mars and Jupiter was an asteroid belt.

        We don't go around demanding Ceres be called a planet again because (a) it isn't, and (b) all the people who may have thought of it that was are now dead. This 'Pluto Restoration Society' will go away when those that can't adjust their mind to the reality of the universe die off. See Kuhn's "The Structu

        • Re:But wait... (Score:4, Interesting)

          by arth1 (260657) on Wednesday July 17, 2013 @09:01AM (#44307349) Homepage Journal

          Also, we once found a "planet" (Ceres) between Mars and Jupiter, and then another (Pallas), and then came Vesta and Hygiea. And then we realized that what was in between Mars and Jupiter was an asteroid belt.

          The asteroids were known long before Pluto was discovered, though. And classified as asteroids for over a century by then.

          As for which one was discovered first, Ceres was the first registered, but there are historic data hinting at Vesta having been known in earlier times - it's at times visible to the naked eye.

          • by RockDoctor (15477)

            The asteroids were known long before Pluto was discovered, though. And classified as asteroids for over a century by then.

            Perhaps more relevant ... Ceres (the first asteroid) was discovered in 1801, but the increasing number of bodies discovered in that region didn't lead to the proposal and implementation of the term "asteroid" until 70-ish years later after the introduction of photography as an astronomical technique (and several years more to become accepted practice) ; Pluto was discovered in 1930, and

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by arth1 (260657)

        Remember, Pluto was only a "planet" because we didn't realize it was an instance of a much larger class of KBOs.

        No, Pluto was a planet because it was a predicted discovery - it was named a planet before it was discovered. Percival Lowell calculated a possible path for "the missing planet" based on what looked like discrepancies in Neptune's orbit.

        Clyde Tombaugh then found "it", and was convinced it was Lowell's Planet X. That what he found near where the incorrect calculations pointed wasn't going to have any noticeable effect on Neptune's orbit didn't stop Lowell Observatory and the press from calling it a planet.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by operagost (62405)
          There was no astronomical definition for "planet" at the time. Nationalism had nothing to do with it. I'm sure just about any nation is pleased when their scientists make discoveries, and with the knowledge at the time and high popularity of astronomy with the public the response was to be expected. You're looking at this through the lens of a modern elitist.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      A cheek?

    • Re:But wait... (Score:5, Informative)

      by Sockatume (732728) on Wednesday July 17, 2013 @04:31AM (#44306245)

      The IAU uses "moon" and "natural satellite" synonymously, which in this context refers to any natural body in a bound orbit of Neptune. I'm not sure why you think a 20km rock would fail to meet that definition.

    • How about specifying it must have enough gravity to make it round to be called a moon and not just a satellite?
      • Re:But wait... (Score:5, Informative)

        by ibwolf (126465) on Wednesday July 17, 2013 @08:50AM (#44307271)

        How about specifying it must have enough gravity to make it round to be called a moon and not just a satellite?

        That would reduce the number of moons in the solar system rather dramatically. Mars, for example, would no longer have any "moons" as neither Phobos nor Deimos meet this definition. In fact both Phobos (11.1 km) and Deimos (6.2 km) are smaller than this newly discovered moon of Neptune (20 km).

      • by RockDoctor (15477)
        That is rather dependent on the composition. Different materials have different strengths.
    • by evilviper (135110) on Wednesday July 17, 2013 @05:38AM (#44306453) Journal

      Too small to call it a moon, huh? Well... how about a "planet-orbiiting object" or "poo" for short?

      As in, Neptune has a bit of poo right over there... Scientists suspect it came out of the moon.

    • by kryliss (72493)

      As the title reads... New moon found orbiting Neptune.

      Not Pluto.

    • That's no moon...that's your momma
    • Let's have a big convention to decide how we should call it.

      It doesn't matter how you call it -- it's not gonna come. :p

  • Meh.... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by yo303 (558777) on Wednesday July 17, 2013 @04:10AM (#44306181)

    I like our moon better.

    But honestly I have not been to either.

    • by mwvdlee (775178)

      Our moon doesn't even have a name.
      Neptunes are called "Larissa", "Proteus" or even "S/2004 N1", ours is just called "moon".
      It's like living in "country" in the village of "village" in a house on "street" or naming all your offspring "child".

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Neil Armstrong commonly referred to it as 'Luna' and if anyone should know its proper name, it would be him

        • by Anonymous Coward

          He didn't refer to the moon by name. He referred to it with the Latin word for it. In science, you know, Latin is pretty often used... :)

      • ... Luna isn't proper enough for you?

        • by mwvdlee (775178)

          Same problem non-name in a different language.
          ""The moon is a moon" in English is "La luna es una luna" in Spanish.
          (I trust Google translate is good enough not to mess up the spanish in this simple sentence).

          • by oobayly (1056050)

            I don't get the point you're making about the translation. Are you saying that google translate should be able to pick up the nuance in that sentence and return a different word for moon if the Spanish use different words for our moon and a moon?

            You're general point is interesting though - are there any languages that do use different words for the two?

            • You're general point is interesting though - are there any languages that do use different words for the two?

              That's not very likely, seeing as the generic term is derived from the original proper name.

          • by PhilHibbs (4537)

            Same problem non-name in a different language.
            ""The moon is a moon" in English is "La luna es una luna" in Spanish.
            (I trust Google translate is good enough not to mess up the spanish in this simple sentence).

            But, "Luna es una luna" is not just Spanish, "Luna" is latin, it just happens to be spelt the same way as a Spanish word.

      • by ls671 (1122017)

        At least it has a dark side. I wonder how many moons have a dark side in the solar system. Meaning, rotation period around its planet equals rotation period on itself.

        • by AlecC (512609)

          Dark in "Dark Side of the Moon" means "unknown", in the same sense as "Darkest Africa" or "Dark Arts". Nobody thought the sun didn't rise in unexplored Africa - though there seems to be a convention that Dark Arts are practised at night in dark robes.

          Hey, if I do my Dark Spells on the beach in a Hawaiian shirt, maybe nobody will notice. World domination, here I come!

        • by tbird81 (946205)

          This phenomenon is called tidal locking [wikipedia.org].

          From Wikipedia:

          Most significant moons in the Solar System are tidally locked with their primaries, since they orbit very closely and tidal force increases rapidly (as a cubic) with decreasing distance. Notable exceptions are the irregular outer satellites of the gas giant planets, which orbit much farther away than the large well-known moons.

          Pluto and Charon are an extreme example of a tidal lock. Charon is a relatively large moon in comparison to its primary and also has a very close orbit. This has made Pluto also tidally locked to Charon. In effect, these two celestial bodies revolve around each other (their barycenter lies outside of Pluto) as if joined with a rod connecting two opposite points on their surfaces.

          The tidal locking situation for asteroid moons is largely unknown, but closely orbiting binaries are expected to be tidally locked, as well as contact binaries.

          • Eventually the Earth will also become tidally locked to the moon, so a month and a day will be the same.

            Apparently builders and plumbers already operate on this calendar.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by AlecC (512609)

        Or living on a lump of earth called "Earth" orbiting a sun called "Sun" in a universe called "the Universe".

      • Our moon doesn't even have a name.

        Yes it does - it's called 'The Moon'! :)

    • by steelfood (895457)

      Me too. The tidal forces it creates makes Earth a far more diverse place. And interestingly enough, there are biological rythms based on it. There are no other planets in our solar system with such a significant moon.

  • by bytesex (112972) on Wednesday July 17, 2013 @06:04AM (#44306537) Homepage

    Thinking of 'planets' and 'moons' is all nineteenth century 'science' - the edge of ascribing to God's plan and capturing everything observable in orderly lists, so that school-children have something to recite in groups: five continents, five senses, five races, seven seas, seven wonders of the ancient world, order species genus family class kingdom, and nine planets.

    In reality, things don't work out that way.

    • by JaredOfEuropa (526365) on Wednesday July 17, 2013 @06:26AM (#44306609) Journal
      Capturing everything observable in orderly lists (based on the mechanics of the underlying model) is science. Calling planets and moons "objects" is akin to discovering more and more kinds of atoms and particles and deciding to call everything just "stuff" because it doesn't fit your model anymore. The right answer is to rethink the definitions and perhaps alter the model. The distinction between planets and moons is still a useful one even if we found a few cases where we're not sure how we should classify them.
      • by CastrTroy (595695)
        Yes, but surely trying to classify everything into well defined groups comes up with some problem. Pluto is no longer a planet because we decided later to change the definition of planet to things that are actually big enough to clear out any other debris in their orbit. But when you compare on other traits, Pluto is more similar to Earth than Jupiter is to Earth. Jupiter doesn't even have a well defined solid surface. To put Jupiter and Earth in the same class but then leave out Pluto because of some cer
        • by Immerman (2627577)

          > Jupiter doesn't even have a well defined solid surface

          To be fair that is only speculation. Scientifically sound speculation perhaps, but until we can actually probe its depths there's plenty of room for surprises.

          • by RockDoctor (15477)
            There is room for surprises, but the extension of high-pressure work on the structure of hydrogen under extreme pressures (well below the Earth's core) is reducing the room for surprises. IIRC the work was published from the HP lab at the Carnegie Institute in Washington, USA about 3 or 4 years ago, but I can't be bothered to dig out the citations.
      • by bytesex (112972)

        Right then. So 'objects' are out. Does 'celestial bodies' work for ya? Oh, and you mention that 'the distinction between planets and moons is still a useful one' - can you give an example?

      • by gl4ss (559668)

        defining that it goes around another object in a trajectory that it goes is more useful than knowing if it's a planet, moon, asteroid, comet or what.

        just like it's better about a car to know how fast it is and how well it turns than it is to know if was labeled a sports car when it was sold.

    • Bullshit! People need something to relate to. You have to put fantastic phenomena in terms they understand. I'm wondering where your brain spends its time if the first thing you come up with is this sad idea. So schoolchildren can recite lists? WTF dude, you're wrong.
      • by bytesex (112972)

        I remember having a discussion with my biology teacher: he claimed that humans don't have instinct - none, and why? Because the definition of 'instinct' involved stating that it didn't apply to humans. That's what these lists are: a way to win a discussion and if you can't win it, you just change the rules.

        Yes, people need something they can relate to. Sure. But I'm not so sure that it would hurt if things were taught a little bit more to their specific merits: I remember how distraught I was when I learned

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Oh, god, not even the aliens are safe from Stephenie Meyer's literature!

  • It's not exactly a "new moon." It's just that nobody knew it was there before. I saw another headline that said "Neptune has a new moon" but I'm sure it's been there for billions of years. I'm just sayin'...
  • No, it is not going to be called "Vulcan".
  • ... almost 12 hours till someone said it? Really?

  • well, maybe it is.

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