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2. 4. Fifteen years later, New Horizons lifted off with a cancelled stamp firmly affixed—ironically, Pluto lost its status as a planet that very same year. Despite its vast distance from the sun, Pluto is far from dark. When Venetia Burney’s grandfather told her the news of the … Photograph by NASA, ESA and the Mark Buie (Southwest Research Institute), https://www.nationalgeographic.com/news/2015/07/150714-pluto-flyby-new-horizons-space-planets.html. It’s still not a planet. Called Pluto Water, an American laxative promised, “When Nature Won’t, Pluto Will.”. The nitrogen cycle also appears to cause atmospheric winds to blow against Pluto’s spin, creating some of its unusual surface features. Pluto’s surface features and abundant water ice provide compelling evidence of a subsurface ocean, and the recent discovery of traces of ammonia on Pluto’s surface is bolstering the case. Pluto was also a laxative. The dwarf planet takes 248 Earth years to complete its run around the sun, following an elongated elliptical orbit that doesn’t follow the plane of the other planets’ orbits. Ninety years ago, astronomer Clyde Tombaugh spotted a point of light on a photographic plate and Pluto’s existence was confirmed. According to the International Astronomical Union, planets are round, orbit the … Even though the sun on Pluto appears 900 times dimmer than on Earth, it’s still 300 times brighter than Earth’s moon; at high noon, Pluto is as well-lit as dawn or dusk on Earth. A new theory proposes that the icy body could have formed from “the agglomeration of roughly a billion comets or other Kuiper Belt objects,” explaining its makeup, in particular the abundance of nitrogen. Charon is about half of Pluto’s size, with an eighth of its mass, and their close proximity—19,000 kilometres (12,000 miles)—have brought them into mutual orbit around their combined centre of gravity, throwing the remaining four moons into somewhat chaotic orbits. © 1996-2015 National Geographic Society, © 2015- Like us on Facebook to see similar stories, Here's the biggest news you missed this weekend, Bartiromo slammed for 'softball' Trump interview. 7. While studying photographic plates of the sky over 14 years, astronomer Clyde Tombaugh spotted 29,500 galaxies, nearly 4,000 asteroids (775 of them new), and at least one new comet. Pluto and its largest moon, Charon, make up the only binary planet in the solar system. The use of the term “Planet Nine” to describe the unseen planet has raised hackles among Pluto’s defenders, who believe it disrespectful to the legacy of Clyde Tombaugh who discovered Pluto; proposed alternatives include Planet X, Planet Next and Giant Planet Five. 9. Taken by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope in 2010, this image was the most detailed photo of Pluto before the New Horizons’ flyby. All five are believed to have formed after a massive Kuiper Belt object smashed into Pluto. The controversial decision gave rise to the term “plutoed” (meaning demoted or devalued), which the American Dialect Society declared word of the year. The average bullet travels around 1,700 miles an hour (2,735 kilometer an hour). All rights reserved. In 1930, after receiving more than 1,000 name suggestions for the newly discovered planet that included Jean, Lowellofa and Zyxmal, members of the Lowell Observatory voted unanimously in favour of Pluto, the Roman god of the underworld. New Horizons blasts off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station aboard an Atlas V rocket. Scientists have yet to confirm how the dwarf planet keeps replenishing its nitrogen; the prevailing theory is that active geysers or cryovolcanoes draw deep nitrogen to the surface. Not even one year has passed on Pluto since it was discovered in 1930. And its five known moons circle in tight, nested orbits. Tucked in a distant corner of the universe, Pluto was an enigma since its discovery 85 years ago. An 11-year-old girl gave Pluto its name. In addition to spawning both a verb and an adjective, Pluto has inspired many namesakes. Objects in the Kuiper Belt that have an orbital relationship with Neptune similar to Pluto’s are called plutinos. In 1991, a set of 10 commemorative 29-cent stamps was commissioned by the U.S. government, to depict the nine planets and the moon along with the spacecraft that had explored each one. Pluto has five known moons: Charon, Hydra, Nix, Kerberos and Styx, named after mythological figures of the underworld. Pluto is believed to be just one of many Kuiper Belt objects with satellites. 5. It’s still not a planet. Rather than being completely pockmarked with impact craters, its surface boasts areas that are relatively young, indicating recently shifting terrains. Pluto is tiny—only two-thirds the size of our moon. Once thought to be a cold, dead world, Pluto shows signs it is geologically active. Pluto may be neither planet nor dwarf planet, but a collective of comets. Microsoft may earn an Affiliate Commission if you purchase something through recommended links in this article. Where the energy driving the surprisingly complex activity comes from remains a mystery. Pluto is in a region of the solar system called the Kuiper belt. New research suggests a layer of gases trapped under ice acts as insulation, with possible radioactivity warming the planet enough to maintain liquid water. In 2015, after a trek of more than six billion kilometres (four billion miles), the New Horizons spacecraft—with an ounce of Tombaugh’s ashes on board—made rendezvous with his greatest discovery. Pluto was not discovered until the year 1930. Pluto is the first and largest of the Kuiper Belt objects—also known as trans-Neptunian objects, or TNOs—to be discovered. In the next section, we present more such facts about Pluto. Pluto has a very thin, ephemeral nitrogen atmosphere, but too little gravity to hold it; nitrogen leaks away in a long tail blown by the solar wind. The reddish particles scatter the light, giving the atmosphere a blue hue (much like on Earth), and precipitate out to form ruddy dunes on the surface. Pluto was reclassified from a planet to a dwarf planet in 2006. Unless that last rule is removed, Pluto will remain a dwarf planet. An 11-year-old named Pluto—but not after the Disney dog. Once thought to be nothing more than a cold, dead ball of ice, Pluto has turned out to be one of the most interesting, puzzling and controversial bodies in the solar system. 8. Pluto’s deficiency in carbon monoxide, usually present in comets, could indicate the presence of liquid water. Pluto was discovered by Clyde Tombaugh when he was just 24 years old. This is because Pluto rotates in the opposite direction from Earth and spins very slowly. It's strange orbit means that, for a few years at a time, Pluto's orbit overlaps with Neptune's. Long considered one of the nine planets of the solar system, Pluto was officially demoted to dwarf planet in 2006 after failing to meet the new definition for a major planet. According to the International Astronomical Union, planets are round, orbit the sun, and have enough gravitational pull to clear their orbits of most debris. 6. This story was adapted from National Geographic magazine. Therefore, since its discovery in 1930, Pluto has not made even a single orbit around the sun! Without a magnetic field, Pluto has no natural mechanism for emitting X-rays, but the New Horizons mission discovered that Pluto is indeed emitting X-rays, and much more than should be possible. NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft made its closest pass by Pluto on Tuesday morning after a 9-and-a-half-year, 3-billion-mile journey through the solar system. Nearly 15 years after Pluto was struck from the list of the solar system’s planets, astronomers say there’s a new ninth planet out on the fringes just waiting to be found. First proposed by 11-year-old Venetia Burney Phair (earning her a five-pound note as reward), the name won out in part because the first two letters form the initials of Percival Lowell, who led the search for the suspected ninth planet. Ammonia breaks down fairly quickly in Pluto’s harsh environment, meaning the traces are geologically “fresh.” Ammonia also lowers the freezing point of water considerably. These eccentricities mean Pluto can at times be closer to the sun than Neptune. The dwarf planet’s atmosphere and its great distance from Earth hindered precise measurement, but New Horizons scientists determined it is roughly 1,473 miles (2,370 kilometers) wide. Organic, sooty molecules called tholins permeate the thin nitrogen atmosphere, cooling it to a chilly -203 degrees Celsius (-333 F). The New Horizons mission to Pluto, which launched in 2006, was partly born of ire. New Horizons carries Tombaugh’s ashes. Her great-uncle Henry Madan named the Martian moons Phobos and Deimos. The fun-loving fido starred in 48 official cartoons of his own, but Pluto is in a good number of Mickey Mouse cartoons in which the scene-stealing hound is actually the star, including Pluto’s Party (1952) and The Simple Things (1953). Seniors On Medicare Are Getting a Big Pay Day in 2020, Expert: “This credit card is so good I signed up personally”, © Universal History Archive / UIG / Shutterstock, interacting with the solar wind in an unexpected and energetic fashion, the agglomeration of roughly a billion comets or other Kuiper Belt objects. Venetia Burney named the planet a year before the cartoon dog acquired his name. 30+ Facts About Pluto For Kids. Pluto’s discoverer found more than just a dwarf planet. The radiation could be produced by the solar wind interacting with nitrogen in Pluto’s atmosphere, but measurements from the Chandra X-ray Observatory don’t quite match up, indicating that Pluto is “interacting with the solar wind in an unexpected and energetic fashion.” Astrophysicists hope that flybys of other Kuiper Belt objects will help uncover the mystery X-ray source. As the New Horizons spacecraft concludes its flyby, learn about how Pluto was named—and why it still won’t be considered a planet. 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