Animation of the chaotic spin of Pluto’s moon Nix

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This animation illustrates how Pluto’s moon Nix changes its spin unpredictably as it orbits the Pluto-Charon system. The view is from the centre of the system as the moon circles around it. The time-lapse animation is based on a computer simulation which calculated the chaotic movement of the four smaller moons in the Pluto-Charon system. Astronomers used this simulation to try and understand the unpredictable changes in reflected light from Nix as it orbits Pluto-Charon. They also found that Pluto’s moon Hydra undergoes a chaotic spin as well. The football-shape of both moons contributes to their wild motion.


NASA, ESA, M. Showalter (SETI Inst.), G. Bacon (STScI)