Pluto still retains a special place in the hearts of many science devotees. While there’s no chance that it will ever regain its former glorious designation as a planet in our solar system, Pluto still has some charm about it.
At present, it’s considered the largest dwarf planet and forms about one half of the first binary planet system. When you think along these lines, it’s hard to mention that Pluto got a demoted. In a sense, you’ll feel that its status got promoted to that dignified next level realm of scientific marvel.
It’s only recently that we’ve started to have our perception of Pluto changed. A key contributor behind this change in perception is the New Horizons spacecraft which was deployed in 2006. The images it has been able to transmit back to earth has enabled the scientific community to catch a glimpse of what Pluto is all about.
The high definition images are changing perceptions and perhaps this warrants a closer inspection on what we know about Pluto. At AstroReality, we all about educating the masses using AR 3D educational tools. In today’s edition, we’ll be sharing some pointers about Pluto so you can get acquainted on what the dwarf planet is all about.
Funnily, the Pluto name was proposed by Venetia Burney, a school-going girl in Oxford, England.
First discovered on February 18th, 1930 at the Lowell Observatory, Pluto had successfully managed about a third of its orbit around the sun before it was demoted in 2006.
Shortly after it was reclassified, Pluto became the biggest dwarf planet in our solar system. With five known moons and a composition of 33% water, Pluto’s surface has mountain ranges and numerous craters which add to the luster of the former planet.
Pluto takes 246.04 earth years before it is able to completely orbit the sun. This makes it one of the interesting celestial bodies in our solar system. Remarkably, its orbit is eccentric and inclined. This means that it deviates from 4.4-7.3 billion km from the sun. As such, there are times when Pluto is actually closer to the Sun that it is to Neptune.
So far, one only one spacecraft has toured Pluto. The New Horizons spacecraft was launched in 2006 and successfully managed to get to Pluto on the 14th of July 2015. The spacecraft was able to capture the scenery of the dwarf planet and take various measurements for scientific reasons. As we speak, the New Horizons spacecraft is making its way to the Kuiper Belt to check out other interesting heavenly bodies.
The atmosphere on Pluto occurs when it nearest to the sun. During this period, the surface ice thaws and creates a slim atmosphere with nitrogen being the primary component.
Notably, there’s also a methane haze which hovers about 161 km above the surfaces. When sunlight hits the methane fog, it splits into hydrocarbons which fall back on the surface to form a dark covering. As it orbits the sun and gets further away, the thin atmosphere freezes and reverts back to a solid state.
Since we’re discussing some fun facts about Pluto, it’s worth noting that the New Horizons spacecraft actually contains some of the ashes of Clyde Tombaugh, the great astronomer credited with the discovery of Pluto. The ashes were introduced as a way of honoring a giant in the field of astronomy and someone who paved the ways for so many others to follow.
Pluto has actually found its way into modern culture. Plutoid is an actual expression that is used to describe various objects in the solar system that are rounded and orbit the Sun way past Neptune’s orbit. Currently, the only recognized plutoids are Makemake, Eris, Pluto, and Haumea. As scientists continue to explore the universe, they are optimistic of finding at least 70 more plutoids before classification.
Because Pluto is so far away, it’s almost impossible to tell Pluto’s constitution. Many believe that it has a rocky core and a mantle of water ice. The dwarf planet is actually smaller than some moons of Jupiter like Europa, Ganymede, Io, and Callisto.
When discussing facts about Pluto, it’s nigh impossible not to mention that one rotation of Pluto takes about 6.39 Earth days. Just like Uranus and Venus, Pluto’s rotation is retrograde, meaning that it rotates from east to west. Thanks to the fact that its axial tilt is 122.5, the dwarf planet experiences extreme seasonal variations and the rotation happens on the sides.
Given the fact that the New Horizons spacecraft took 9 years before making its way to Pluto, we can safely say that a trip to Pluto is not something all of us can do.
However, thanks to the power of augmented reality and the snapshots we’ve got of the dwarf planet, it’s possible for everyone to envision just how the planet looks and feels like.
Our PLUTO Classic 3D printed and AR enhanced model captures all the fundamental elements of the dwarf planet. You can use the model for entertainment purposes or to impart some knowledge to students. Space exploration has never been easier!