How much do you know about Pluto? NASA’s New Horizons Spacecraft captured the first high-resolution photos of Pluto after it flew past in 2015. The mission provided amazing insight into the distant dwarf planet and its moon system.
Did you know that Pluto is actually smaller than some Moons? Or that Pluto was once considered our ninth planet before it was demoted in 2005?
If you’re looking to discover more fun facts about Pluto, read on below.
Pluto was originally discovered in 1930 by Lowell Observatory in Arizona. It was one of the first objects to be photographed in the Kuiper Belt, a large ring of debris circling the outer solar system. The discovery of a new planet made global news, and it was actually named by an eleven-year-old girl in Oxford, United Kingdom, who had a keen interest in classical mythology. The name “Pluto” refers to the ruler of the Underworld.
While Pluto was considered our ninth planet from the Sun, it came into a lot of controversy in the early 2000s. Similar-sized objects were discovered in the Kuiper Belt, which led many to question the status of Pluto as a planet. It wasn’t until astronomers discovered Eris in 2005, an object in the same region substantially larger than Pluto, that the International Astronomical Union (IAU) sought to redefine the term “planet.”
In 2006, the IAU released a new definition for a “planet” which stated that an object needed to;
While Pluto meets most of these characteristics, it doesn’t possess enough mass to clear debris from its orbital neighborhood. The planet was officially reclassified to a “Dwarf Planet” amid much controversy. There is still an ongoing debate among the scientific community, but at this stage, Pluto is now a Dwarf Planet.
Pluto is one of the coldest places in our solar system and sits at a chilly -375 degrees Fahrenheit! Its surface consists of approximately 70% rock and 30% water ice, which is thought to be a mixture of frozen nitrogen, carbon monoxide, and methane. In fact, the planet has more than three times the amount of water than all of Earth’s oceans combined!
Pluto is quite small in comparison to other planets. The dwarf planet has a diameter of 1473 miles, which puts it at one-fifth of Earth’s diameter. Eris, the second-largest dwarf planet, is only fractionally smaller at 1,445 miles in diameter. In fact, Pluto is smaller than several moons, including Earth’s own Lunar.
Due to the distance from Earth, little was known about Pluto until 2015, when NASA’s New Horizons Spacecraft flew by at close range. The observations provided a lot of interesting features; from the mountain range of Norgay Montes that extends up to 11,000 feet, and the large heart-shaped region called Tombaugh Regio.
The Dwarf Planet of Pluto has five natural satellites (moons); Charon, Styx, Nix, Kerberos, and Hydra. These are thought to have formed after Pluto collided with another object in the Kuiper Belt at the early stages of the solar system formation.
Pluto’s main Moon, Charon, is considerably large in comparison to its parent. Charon is nearly half the size of Pluto with a diameter of approximately 750 miles. Pluto and Charon are gravitationally locked, so the same side of each is always facing the other.
Nix and Hydra are two small moons discovered in 2005 by the Hubble Space Telescope. Both moons are similar in size at approximately 24 miles at the longest dimension and both tumble chaotically due to the elongated shape.
Discovered in 2011, Kerberos is a tiny irregular-shaped moon measuring approximately 7.5 miles at its longest point. Located between Nix and Hydra, scientists believe Kerberos is the result of a merger between two smaller objects.
Styx is a Pluto’s smallest Moon with a diameter measuring between 6 and 15 miles. Due to the size, there is not enough gravity to mold the Moon into a sphere, and as such has an irregular shape also. Scientists discovered Styx in 2012 after scouring the region for potential hazards that may impact the New Horizons Spacecraft mission.
Combining a 3D printed model with augmented reality (AR), you can take participate in an interactive learning experience on Pluto!
AstroReality uses cutting-edge technology that allows you to interact with each model like never before. Delve deep into the history of the former planet, learn about NASA’s New Horizons mission, or walk around the icy surface as you discover fun facts about Pluto.
Each model is 3D printed to 0.1 per pixel and is made from polyurethane (PU) resin to ensure longevity. PLUTO Classic is only 60mm in diameter and hand-painted, allowing you to view every detail; from Burney Crater to Sputnik Planitia, the ice-covered basin in the heart-shaped region of Tombaugh Regio.
Pluto is a unique dwarf planet with an interesting history. If you’re looking for a new way to experience the outer regions of the solar system, try PLUTO Classic today!