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By the three moons of Pluto!

Sky gazers certify two new satellites

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Astronomers have confirmed they spied two previously unknown moons orbiting tiny ninth planet Pluto using the Hubble Space Telescope.

As we reported in November the confirmation, published in Nature, brings the enigmatic planet's lunar total to three.

Until now it was thought to have just one - 750-mile-diameter Charon.

The more distantly orbiting of the new moons takes 38 Earth days to do a circuit of Pluto, and with a diameter between 40 and 100 miles, is around 22 per cent larger than its fellow discovery. The smaller satellite takes 25 days to orbit the outer planet.

The two bodies have been given the uninspiring provisional names S/2005 P1 and S/2005 P2, before a panel of the International Astronomical Union makes an official decision.

Any good name suggestions from Reg readers will be forwarded to the appropriate egghead. ®

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