Since you’re reading this right now, chances are that you have purchased, or maybe were given or allowed to borrow, a computer. If you bought one, you probably know how fast computer technology changes.
Science does this as well, especially when it comes to Astronomy.
Just over a week ago, on July 15th, SETI scientist Mark Showalter announced his team’s discovery of S/2004 N 1, a 14th moon orbiting Neptune, which was first observed on July 1st, 2 weeks earlier.
So why didn’t Voyager 2 see it first?
There are 2 reasons. First, S/2004 N 1 is only about 11 miles (18 km) in diameter, and second, it’s extremely dim. In fact, if the Hubble images in which it was seen hadn’t been expanded to show the entirety of Neptune’s rings, it’s unlikely that the moom would have been seen at all.
While it’s been determined that S/2004 N 1 is the smallest of Neptune’s known moons, what isn’t certain yet is what it’s composed of or where it came from, though it’s been hypothesized that it may be a fragment left over from a collision of other moons.
But what about the name? Will it be known as S/2004 N 1 forever?
Probably not. Showalter’s team is planning on proposing a name to the IAU based on mythological relevance to Poseidon or Neptune, to maintain the tradition of Neptune’s satellites being named for nautical characters.
But suppose you had been on the team that first observed it.
If you were tasked with giving it an official title based on the theme, what would it be?
Remember, just because it’s the most recently discovered moon doesn’t mean that there aren’t more waiting to be found. It just might be you who locates another.