Discovery images of Hydra (and Nix)
|Discovered by||Hubble Space Telescope
Pluto Companion Search Team
|Discovery date||June 2005|
|(134340) Pluto III|
Hydra was found by the Hubble Space Telescope's "Pluto Companion Search Team", consisting of Hal A. Weaver, Alan Stern, Max J. Mutchler, Andrew J. Steffl, Marc W. Buie, William J. Merline, John R. Spencer, Eliot F. Young, and Leslie A. Young. The discovery images were taken on May 15, 2005, and May 18, 2005; Nix and Hydra were independently discovered by Max J. Mutchler on June 15, 2005, and Andrew J. Steffl on August 15, 2005. The discoveries were announced on October 31, 2005, after confirmation by precoveries from 2002. They were provisionally designated S/2005 P 1 (Hydra) and S/2005 P 2 (Nix).
The name Hydra was announced on June 21, 2006, in IAU Circular 8723, along with the formal designation Pluto III. The name is that of the Hydra, the nine-headed serpent which battled Hercules in Greek mythology. The nine heads of Hydra are a reference to Pluto's tenure as the ninth planet; its initial, H, refers to the Hubble Telescope, which discovered Hydra and, together with Nix, to the New Horizons mission whose safe passage was the motivation for taking the Hubble images.
The satellite orbits the barycenter of the system in the same plane as Charon and Nix, at a distance of about 65,000 km. Unlike other satellites of Pluto, its orbit is only nearly circular; its eccentricity of 0.0052 is small, but significantly non-zero. Its orbital period of 38.2 days is close to a 1:6 orbital resonance with Charon, with the timing discrepancy being 0.3%. Whether this is an actual resonance awaits more detailed determinations of its orbit, in particular its rate of precession. If there is no actual resonance, a hypothesis to explain the near-resonance is that it originated before the outward migration of Charon following the formation of all five known moons, and is maintained by the periodic local fluctuation of 5% in the Pluto–Charon gravitational field strength.
Although its size has not been directly measured, calculations based on its brightness give it a diameter of between 61 and 167 kilometers (38 and 104 mi). To meet the lower end of the range, its geometric albedo would have to be similar to Charon's 35%. For it to be the at the higher end of the range, it would have to have a reflectivity of 4%, like the darkest Kuiper belt objects. At the time of discovery, Hydra was about 25 percent brighter than its sister moon Nix, which led to the assumption that its diameter was some 10 percent larger. Pre-discovery data from Hubble observations in 2002–03 implied that Nix was the brighter moon. However, Hubble observations in 2005–06, specifically targeting the dim moons, once again showed Hydra to be a little brighter. Hydra appears to be spectrally neutral like Charon and Nix, whereas Pluto is reddish.
- Buie, Marc W.; Grundy, William M.; Young, Eliot F.; Young, Leslie A.; Stern, S. Alan (2006). "Orbits and Photometry of Pluto's Satellites: Charon, S/2005 P1, and S/2005 P2". The Astronomical Journal 132 (1): 290. arXiv:astro-ph/0512491. Bibcode:2006AJ....132..290B. doi:10.1086/504422. . a, i, e per JPL (site updated 2008 Aug 25)
- H. A. Weaver; S. A. Stern, M. J. Mutchler, A. J. Steffl, M. W. Buie, W. J. Merline, J. R. Spencer, E. F. Young and L. A. Young (23 February 2006). "Discovery of two new satellites of Pluto". Nature 439 (7079): 943–945. arXiv:astro-ph/0601018. Bibcode:2006Natur.439..943W. doi:10.1038/nature04547. PMID 16495991.
- Tholen, David J.; Buie; Grundy; M. W. Buie, W. M. Grundy (October 2010). "Improved Masses of Nix and Hydra". AAS DPS Meeting #42 42: 984. Bibcode:2010DPS....42.2008T.
- Stern, S. A.; Mutchler, M. J.; Weaver, H. A.; Steffl, A. J. (2006). "The Positions, Colors, and Photometric Variability of Pluto's Small Satellites from HST Observations 2005–2006". Astronomical Journal 132 (3): submitted. arXiv:astro-ph/0607507. Bibcode:2006AJ....132.1405S. doi:10.1086/506347. (Final preprint)
- Cain, Fraser (2008). "Pluto's Moon Hydra".
- IAU Circular No. 8625 describing the discovery
- IAU Circular No. 8723 naming the moons
- Neil deGrasse Tyson, 2009, The Pluto Files
- Stern, Alan; Hal Weaver (JHU APL), Max Mutchler (STScI), Andrew Steffl (SwRI), Bill Merline (SwRI), Marc Buie (Lowell Observatory), John Spencer (SwRI), Eliot Young (SwRI), and Leslie Young (SwRI) (15 May 2005). "Background Information Regarding Our Two Newly Discovered Satellites of Pluto". Planetary Science Directorate (Boulder Office). Retrieved 2007-11-10.
- Steffl, A. J.; Mutchler, M. J.; Weaver, H. A.; Stern, S. A.; Durda, D. D.; Terrell, D.; Merline, W. J.; Young, L. A.; Young, E. F.; Buie, M. W.; and Spencer, J. R. (2006). "New Constraints on Additional Satellites of the Pluto System". The Astronomical Journal 132 (2): 614–619. arXiv:astro-ph/0511837. Bibcode:2006AJ....132..614S. doi:10.1086/505424. (Final preprint)
- Hydra Profile by NASA's Solar System Exploration
- NASA's Hubble Reveals Possible New Moons Around Pluto – Hubble press release
- Two More Moons Discovered Orbiting Pluto (SPACE.com)
- Pluto's Newest Moons Named Hydra and Nix (SPACE.com)
- Hydra at ESA/Hubble