Space Garbage Found Orbiting Neptune

Tweety BirdThis morning, NASA announced that another moon was discovered circling Neptune. And that’s cool. But you have to ask, “Didn’t we go there?” Indeed we did. And why didn’t we noticed it? Because it is tiny! This is Neptune’s 14th moon, and just like with each new child Michelle Duggar pops out, you have to ask why we care. At just 20 km across, this moon is roughly the size of Mars’ two spectacularly unimpressive moons. Of course, I’ve always had a problem with moons of these sizes. All planets (And moons!) have space garbage orbiting them. And this new moon—with its romantic name S/2004 N 1—would not even qualify as a significant asteroid.

I understand that this is quite a scientific accomplishment. Detecting a tiny moon orbiting a huge planet is a great accomplishment. Mark Showalter is to be congratulated. He was studying Neptune’s rings when part of it diverged. That says a lot about what a tiny object this moon is: it was obscured by Neptune’s pathetic ring system. By looking at several years of data, he was able to determine orbital parameters like the fact that it is located way out at 100,000 km from Neptune.

According to NPR, many people are are looking to name this glorified piece of space garbage. Some have even suggested that this shriveled orbital should be named—God save me!—Vulcan. Luckily, William Shatner was around to set everyone straight about how these things get named:

The fact remains, there is an endless quantity of cosmic debris floating around the solar system. People discover it all the time. The fact that one managed to get attached to Neptune is about as exciting as the next season of Dancing with the Stars. But that doesn’t mean I’m not keen to enter the name debate. My candidate: Tweety. You see, Tweety Bird is both small and annoying. Plus, Tweet Bird is one of the water deities.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

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