A new moon was discovered orbiting Neptune joining the other 13 we already knew about. Scientists announced in a study last week that they have named the new moon Hippocamp after a sea creature in Greek and Roman mythology. The animal is believed to have an upper body of a horse and a lower body of a fish.
This name matches well with the theme of Neptune’s 13 other moons, all of which are named after Gods and sea creatures from Greek and Roman mythology – Triton, Nereid, Larissa, Naiad, Thalassa, Despina, Galatea, Proteus, Halimede, Sao, Psamathe, Laomedeia, and Neso.
Hippocamp is incredibly tiny for a moon: it’s just 20 miles across, or about the size of a major metropolitan city. Astronomers were initially surprised to find this tiny moon orbiting so close to a much larger moon called Proteus. They believe that Neptune’s tiniest moon could be a ‘chipped-off piece’ from Proteus as a result of a collision with a comet billions of years ago.
Neptune’s moon system is different from other planets thanks to the impact of Triton. Billions of years ago, Neptune captured a huge moon called Triton from the Kuiper Belt, which is a zone of icy and rocky objects beyond Neptune’s orbit. It also happens to be the zone where the dwarf planet Pluto orbits.
When Triton came into Neptune’s system, it changed everything. This moon eventually moved into a circular orbit around Neptune, but in the process, it destroyed other moons in the region. Ultimately, the debris of these old moons collected into a new generation of moons.
According to this theory, Hippocamp would be a third-generation moon.
The moon’s existence heightens the possibility that there are even more tiny worlds around Neptune that we just haven’t seen yet.