(CBS SF) — The dwarf planet Pluto may be more than 3.6 billion miles away from the sun, but it’s certainly not alone.
For the first time, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft has photographed Kerberos and Styx, two of the icy planet’s smallest five known moons. Now the spacecraft is within sight of all the known members of the Pluto system and able to capture the whole family together for a historic image.READ MORE: 49ers Fans Look to Make Noise, Boost Team at NFC Championship Game
New Horizon first detected Pluto’s giant moon Charron in July 2013, followed by Hydra and Nix.
“New Horizons is now on the threshold of discovery,” said mission science team member John Spencer. “If the spacecraft observes any additional moons as we get closer to Pluto, they will be worlds that no one has seen before.”
The two small moons were photographed with the New Horizons’ most sensitive camera, the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager, from April 25-May 1.READ MORE: Solo Crash Friday Night Closes Moraga Road, Cuts Power to Hundreds
They were captured during five 10-second exposures that have been added together to make the image in the left panel. The photos were then edited to reduce Pluto’s glare to show the brighter moons Nix and Hydra, shown in the right panel.
“Detecting these tiny moons from a distance of more than 55 million miles is amazing,” said New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern.
NASA once considered Pluto as the ninth planet in our solar system, but because of its size and location in space, it’s now referred to as a dwarf planet.MORE NEWS: S.F. Supervisors Set to Designate Casa Sanchez Bldg. in Mission District a Historical Landmark
In March, the NASA spacecraft Dawn entered orbit around the dwarf planet Ceres for a 16-month exploration to learn more about the mysterious bright spot discovered earlier this year.