The gas giant Neptune is the eighth furthest planet from the Sun. Image Credit: NASA/JPL
Scientists have successfully identified an entirely new moon in orbit around the gas giant Neptune.
Named Hippocamp after a sea creature of Greek mythology, the new moon was discovered in images taken by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope using cutting-edge image processing techniques.
It had appeared in photographs as far back as 2004 but had gone unnoticed until now.
At a mere 34km across, it is the smallest of Neptune's moons.
Scientists believe that it formed from the debris produced when an object struck Proteus - another of Neptune's moons - as evidenced by a large crater on its surface.
"Proteus sports an unusually large crater called Pharos - a telltale sign that the moon might have barely escaped destruction by impact," wrote astronomer Anne J. Verbiscer.
"Whenever this impact occurred, it no doubt launched debris into orbit around Neptune."
It is hoped that the discovery will help to shed light on how Neptune's other moons formed as well.
Source: Independent | Comments (2)