Meet Hippocamp, Neptune’s Newly Found Moon Of Only 34 Kilometers in Diameter

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Even though it is almost invisible to the world’s most powerful telescope, most of the time, Hippocamp is one of Neptune’s moons. Hippocamp, which became officially the cataloged as a Neptune’s moon, was first sighted in 2004. However, according to a paper published in the Nature Astronomy journal, the scientists took more observations of Hippocamp in 2013.

Until recently, Neptune’s newly found moon was named S/2004 N1 (S for satellite, 2004 from the year the astronomers sighted the moon for the first time, and N from Neptune). But, finally, the astronomers calculated this moon’s orbit around Neptune, so, in consequence, the International Astronomical Union officially dubbed the moon Hippocamp.

“I’ve actually used Hubble to discover a couple of other moons in the solar system around Uranus and Pluto, but this one was the most elusive of anything I’ve worked on,” said Mark Showalter, an astronomer from SETI, who detected Hippocamp in 2004.

Hippocamp Is Neptune’s Newly Found Moon Of Only 34 Kilometers in Diameter

“So we had to come up with this special procedure where we had to say if there’s a moon in any given location in the Neptune system, and if we see it in this one location in this one image, then this is where it would appear in every other image we got. So we had to do this geometric processing of each image, so that we stopped the moon in its tracks, and made it sit still long enough to see it,” Mark Showalter continued.

But, Showalter was lucky to make such a discovery. As he was looking for the so-called arcs in Neptune’s rings, the researcher decided to increase the image’s field of view from around 70,000 km out from Neptune to 200,000 km. And there it was Hippocamp, right next to another inner moon of Neptune, Proteus. Hippocamp has only 34 kilometers in diameter, so its one of the smallest moons in the Solar System.

“If we ever sent a spacecraft to Neptune, I would not be at all surprised to learn that there are additional moons of Neptune that we didn’t know about. There’s an awful lot of good science to be done at Uranus and Neptune,” concluded Showalter.