A newly discovered small moon of Neptune is coming into clearer focus as astronomers have now pinpointed this tiny rock’s orbit and where it might have come from. The moon’s existence heightens the possibility that there are even more tiny worlds around Neptune that we just haven’t seen yet.
The newly characterized moon — Hippocamp, named after a mythical half-horse, half-fish sea creature — is the smallest moon yet discovered in orbit around the outermost planet. NASA says the 20-mile-wide moon is about 100 million times fainter than the faintest star that’s visible to the naked eye.
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Hippocamp was first seen in photos taken by Hubble in 2013. But its presence — situated close to a much larger moon known as Proteus — posed a mystery: Why hadn’t Hippocamp coalesced with or been cast aside by Proteus, an irregularly shaped, 260-mile-wide moon that is roughly 1,000 times more massive?