When Pluto had been classified in 1930, it was declared as the farthest planet from the Sun. However, when it was put on the anvil of “Planet Classification,” Pluto had to depart from the family of Planets of the Solar System. Now, Pluto is the largest Dwarf Planet. Besides being a close member of our Solar System, Pluto has many mysteries to be unfolded. Let’s explore some interesting facts about this Dwarf Planet:
1. Guess, who named the Pluto!
The name Pluto was proposed by an eleven-year-old schoolgirl Venetia Burney. Pluto is the other name of Hades who is considered the Greek God of the underworld.
Source: space-facts.com, image: wikimedia.org
2. Pluto is no more Pluto!
After its demotion from a Planet to a Dwarf Planet, Pluto achieved an official name “134340 Pluto.”
3. The largest Dwarf Planet!
After Pluto had been classified as a Dwarf Planet, scientists were confused about the average diameter of Pluto and Eris. Eris is another Dwarf Planet. After careful observation and calculation, finally, Pluto was declared as the largest Dwarf Planet. Do you know Pluto is even smaller than the Earth’s moon?
Source: space-facts.com, Image: extremetech.com
4. Earlier Pluto was thought to be bigger than Mercury
After its discovery, Pluto was thought to be larger than Mercury and even bigger than the Earth! But after lots of studies and calculations, Scientists decided that it’s not even a planet. It’s just a Dwarf Planet.
Source: livescience.com, image: wikimedia.org
5. Why a Dwarf Planet?
According to the International Astronomical Union, a celestial must meet the following criteria to qualify as a planet:
1. A Planet must be round.
2. A planet must orbit the Sun.
3. A planet must have cleared the neighborhood of its orbit. That means; as a planet travels; its gravity must sweep and clear the space around it of other objects.
Since Pluto follows the first 2 rules and does not follow the third rule, it is no longer considered a planet.
6. Longest Orbit
Since Pluto is farthest from the Sun, that’s why it takes the maximum time to orbit around the Sun. One complete revolution of Pluto around the sun takes 248 Earth years. The path of the orbit of Pluto is quite different from other planets because of its more tilted orbit compared to other planets.
7. Pluto is a trespasser!
Between the year 1979 and 1999, Pluto moved into Neptune’s orbit. Around this time, Pluto was nearer to the Sun than the Neptune. Thankfully, Pluto didn’t collide with Neptune when it entered the Neptune’s orbit.
Source: planetsforkids.org, image: jpl.nasa.go
8. Still waiting for its first complete orbit!
Pluto was discovered in the year 1930, and one complete orbit of Pluto around the Sun will occur in the year 2178.
9. The Cool Dwarf Planet!
Since Pluto is farthest from the Sun, it has one of the lowest temperatures. Pluto’s temperature ranges from minus 235 degree Celsius to minus 210 degree Celsius.
Source: sciencekids.co.nz, image: Flickr
10. The only Dwarf Planet with an atmosphere!
Pluto has an atmosphere, and it’s the only Dwarf Planet to have an atmosphere. Pluto’s atmosphere is composed mainly of carbon monoxide, methane, and nitrogen but Pluto’s atmosphere is unique in another aspect. During its orbit, when Pluto is closest to the Sun, its atmosphere is in a gaseous state. However, when Pluto is farthest from the Sun, its atmosphere freezes and turns to the solid state.
Source: facts.randomhistory.com, image: wikimedia.org
11. Pluto has the second slowest spin
While Venus has the slowest spin of 243 days; Pluto has the second slowest spin of 6 days, 9 hours and 17 minutes.
12. Meet the Pluto Family!
Pluto has 5 moons. Out of these, Charon is the largest. Other four moons are quite tiny as compared to Charon. The four tiny moons are Nix, Hydra, Styx, and Kerberos.
13. An Ocean on Charon?
Scientists have suggested that there might have been an ocean on Charon. A long time ago, the tidal force due to Pluto’s gravity, might have stretched Charon’s inside due to which it warmed up. This warmth could have led to the creation of an ocean inside the Charon. But now the orbit of Charon is not so eccentric as it was in the past. So, it’s possible that the ocean is frozen now.
Source: universetoday.com, image: wikimedia.org
14. Pluto has a Heart
NASA had released some photos of Pluto recently which shows 1,000 miles long heart shape on the planet. The heart shape is due to the frost, which is actually a mixture of frozen nitrogen, methane and carbon monoxide.
Source: time.com, image: wikimedia.org
15. Pluto’s surface has ice mountain
Recent images from New Horizon reveal that there are Ice Mountains on the surface of Pluto. Some of these mountains are as high as 11,000 feet above the surface. The surface of this Dwarf Planet is also free from craters. Scientists believe that the surface of Pluto is less than 100 million years old.
Source: geek.com, image: Nasa