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October 25, 2010 - Consolation Moons

Consolation Moons Five years ago this week, a team of astronomers announced the discovery of what turned out to be two new moons orbiting Pluto in addition to its known moon, Charon. At the time, Pluto was embroiled in a worldwide debate after the July 2005 discovery of the trans-Neptunian object Eris—which was larger than Pluto—brought into question the definition of a planet. By 2006 the International Astronomical Union demoted Pluto to the rank of “dwarf planet,” but throughout all of this controversy, Pluto enjoyed the company of its two “new” companions, named Nix and Hydra. In this artist’s conception, Nix and Hydra are represented by the foreground landscape and bright distant moon at lower left; Pluto is the largest disk above center; and Charon appears to the upper right of Pluto.

Image credit: NASA / ESA / G. Bacon (STScI)

Weekly Calendar

October 25-31, 2010

Holidays - Sky Events - Space History

Moon phase Monday 25

1671: Giovanni Cassini discovers Iapetus, moon of Saturn
1877: Henry Norris Russell born
1975: Venera 10 lands on Venus
2006: STEREO spacecraft launched

Moon phase Tuesday 26

1977: Fifth and final glide test of Space Shuttle Enterprise
2004: Cassini spacecraft completes first flyby of Titan

Moon phase Wednesday 27

1961: SA-1 launched, first Saturn rocket
2003: ISS Expedition 7 crew returns to Earth after 184 days in orbit

Moon phase Thursday 28

Venus in inferior conjunction

1971: Britain launches its first satellite
1974: Luna 23 launched
2009: Ares I-X test flight

Moon phase Friday 29

1964: First flight of Lunar Landing Research Vehicle
1987: Cosmos 1894 becomes 2,000th satellite
1991: Galileo flies past Gaspra
1998: STS-95 Discovery launched

Moon phase Saturday 30

Last Quarter Moon 8:46 AM ET

1981: Venera 13 launched
1985: STS-61A Challenger launched
1997: First successful Ariane 5 rocket launched

Moon phase Sunday 31

Halloween

2005: Hubble Space Telescope discovers two new moons orbiting Pluto
2006: NASA announces SM4, the fifth and final Hubble servicing mission

Suggestions for new history dates or better links? Corrections for errors on this page? Please e-mail me.