TECH
19/02/2015 11:55 GMT | Updated 19/02/2015 11:59 GMT

Pluto's Moons Nix And Hydra Photographed By NASA's New Horizons

NASA has unveiled dramatic new images of two small moons orbiting Pluto.

The New Horizons spacecraft is currently hurtling towards the dwarf planet, and its complex system of moons.

As it comes closer (it’s about 125 million miles away right now) it is able to photograph each of those Moons - one of the first time from close range.

The latest are Nix and Hydra, which are both about 25 to 95 miles in diameter. Hydra is Pluto’s outermost moon, orbiting at about 40,200 miles. Nix is closer, at 30,260 miles.

The two moons are visible circling Pluto, which itself was only discovered in 1930. They are identified in the GIF above - Hydra (yellow diamond ) and Nix (orange diamond). They have been photographed before by the Hubble Space Telescope, but not at close range. Two other moons (Styx and Kerberos) remain too small and faint for New Horizons to see until it comes closer. The craft will eventually zoom past the dwarf planet, though it will not enter orbit as it will be travelling too fast.

“It’s thrilling to watch the details of the Pluto system emerge as we close the distance to the spacecraft’s July 14 encounter,” says New Horizons science team member John Spence.

“This first good view of Nix and Hydra marks another major milestone, and a perfect way to celebrate the anniversary of Pluto’s discovery.”