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Tiny 'lost' moon orbiting Neptune found in telescope images

Oct. 10, 2013 at 5:32 PM   |   Comments

MOUNTAINVIEW, Calif., Oct. 10 (UPI) -- A tiny moon orbiting Neptune, "lost" since a sighting more than 20 years ago, has been seen again in images from the Hubble Space Telescope, scientists say.

Researchers at the SETI Institute in Mountain View, Calif., sifting through Hubble images, have caught sight of Naiad, the innermost of Neptune's moons, SPACE.com reported.

The tiny cosmic body, just 62 miles wide, was last observed by cameras on NASA's Voyager 2 spacecraft, which discovered it in 1989.

Using a technique to help cancel out Neptune's glare -- the planet is 2 million times brighter than Naiad, making the tiny moon difficult to see from earth -- the SETI researchers were able to track Naiad across a series of eight archival images taken by Hubble in 2004.

"Naiad has been an elusive target ever since Voyager left the Neptune system," SETI scientist Mark Showalter said in announcing the new findings this week at the annual meeting of the American Astronomical Society's Division for Planetary Sciences in Denver.

"It is always exciting to find new results in old data," Showalter said. "We keep discovering new ways to push the limit of what information can be gleaned from Hubble's vast collection of planetary images."

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