The Plutonian System

Since 1978 it has been known that Pluto has at least one natural satellite, Charon. Two additional moons were recently discovered orbiting Pluto, bringing the total to three. Only two observations have been made of these moons, so their orbits have not been determined with a great deal of precision.

The simulation PlutoSystem.gsim shows Pluto and its 3 satellites. This simulation is displayed in the floating mode, so Pluto is not locked to the center of the screen. Rather, it orbits the system barycenter. In this case, the barycenter is the center of mass of Pluto and Charon, but not the recently-discovered moons. Their masses are not yet known, however it is reasonable to expect that they are much less than Pluto or Charon, making them insignificant to the simulation.

The starting conditions for Pluto and Charon were obtained by JPL's Horizons Ephemeris Computation Service. The starting conditions for Pluto's newly-discovered satellites are simply my best attempt to fit the limited data available at this point. Additional observations of the Plutonian system are expected within the coming months. This will help refine the orbits of the two newly-discovered moons. They may be locked into resonance with Charon. Check back periodically for an updated simulation.


Download PlutoSystem.gsim

(You need to have the program Gravity Simulator installed on your computer first. Click Here to download Gravity Simulator.)