A Note On Pluto
A while ago my friend Isy wrote a brilliant guest blog about Pluto describing his relationship with Charon and showing that in fact this minor planet is really part of a dyad. To read that click here. I was reminded of this because she sent me this note about the most recent Plutonian data.
Another intriguing bonne-bouche … Pluto’s vortex with Charon creates a curious combination of stable, though bizarre, orbits, and utterly unpredictable tumbling rotations.
According to this, some of them orbit Pluto in opposite directions, though in roughly the same plane. I’d check that. I’m not sure that’s physically possible!
This does have an incorrect graphic implying that the moon closest to the Pluto-Charon dyad orbits a lot slower than the outer moon, and in the opposite direction. Heck of a metaphor, but erroneous. The actual order from inside to outside is Charon, Styx, Nix, Kerberos, and Hydra. Styx does orbit faster than Hydra. BBC should be ashamed! 🙂
One of these moons is black and the others are white, and yet they’re assumed to be from the same source. I love it that the one named after the guard dog is black, otherly, a different species but spang in the middle of the family.
Most weirdly, these satellites around the P-C dyad don’t rotate around poles. Not at all. They tumble like acrobats with inner-ear trouble, rotating roughly around their central point but with any old chunk of surface facing the Sun at any given time. Standing on the surface, you’d see pretty much everything overhead at some point soon.
And yet they hold their orbits, in stable octaves, around the P-C binary. That is really cool. Seems like it should be chaos, but all that bouncing and twanging has its own, much more complex pattern embedded in its activity.
Hubble studies Pluto’s wobbly moons http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-33005898
This animation shows the binary orbit to be more like a swing dance couple than pebbles on a string:
The visuals here are wonderful. Wish I’d had this for that guest blog!
Nice geek break 🙂