A Brief Overview of Pluto as a Dwarf Planet
- Pluto is considered a dwarf planet of our solar system. A dwarf planet is considered as a planet that travels around or orbits the sun just like other planets, but as per size, it is very much smaller as compared with other ones.
- Firstly, Pluto is discovered by Clyde Tombaugh in the late 1930s. he was an astronomer (a scientist who studies space objects) from the united states.
- Venetia Burney named Pluto that same year in 1930. An 11-year-old girl from England.
- Pluto is very small in size as compared with other planets. In simple words, we may say that the size of Pluto is half as wide as the united states. Pluto is smaller than our mother earth’s moon.
- Pluto takes 248 years of earth year to complete one orbit with respect to the sun.
- Approx. 6 ½ days as per earth is the one day on Pluto
- Pluto is just about approx. 40 rimes farther from the sun than Earth is.
- Pluto comes under the area of the Kuiper (KY-per) Belt.
- Pluto has its five natural moons in which Charon is the largest one. Mission horizon describes that the size of Charon is about half the size of Pluto.
The other four planets of Pluto are named Kerberos, Styx, Nix and Hydra.
Characteristics of Pluto
- Pluto is very small in size
- It is very much colder than Antarctica.
- The air of Pluto is much cold that earth’s air would freeze into a kind of snow there
- Pluto has less gravity as compared with earth.
- The radius of Pluto is 715 miles (1,151 kilometers)
- It is about 1/6 the width of the earth
- The distance from the sun of Pluto is 3.7 billion miles (5.9 billion kilometers) which are approx. 39 astronomical units.
- The sun lights take approx. 5.5 hours to travel from the sun to Pluto.
- As per size, Pluto is approx. 2/3 in diameter of our earth’s moon and according to scientists its core may be in the form of rock which is surrounded by a mantle of water ice.
- Pluto is a member of the objects that orbit the sun in a disc-like zone beyond the orbit of Neptune called the Kuiper Belt.
Pluto’s Surface Features
- Studies from the data of the new horizon mission say that the surface of Pluto is Characterized by mountains, valleys, plains, and craters.
- Mountains on the surface of Pluto is tall as to 6,500 to 9,800 feet and coating the frozen gases like methane.
- The craters of Pluto is large as 162 miles in diameter dot landscape on Pluto.
- Some studies also say that Pluto’s tectonic forces are slowly resurfacing Pluto.
Orbital Characteristics of Pluto
- The orbital path of Pluto is unusual as compared with other solar system planets (Solar System: A General Introduction).
- Its orbit is elliptical and tilted
- From 1979 to 1999, Pluto was its nearest perihelion location to the earth. During this time the Pluto was actually closer to the sun as compared with Neptune.
- One day on Pluto is equal to 153 hours according to earth. Pluto’s axis rotation is tilted near about 56 degrees.
Atmospheric Characteristics of Pluto
- As per the success of the new Horizon mission, it is studied that the atmosphere of Pluto is thin. Tenuous which expands when it comes closer to the sun in the situation of perihelion and collapse as it moves farther away similar to a comet.
- The main gas molecular found on Pluto is nitrogen.
- Pluto becomes colder when it is far from the sun each year. At this stage, the bulk of the planet’s atmosphere may freeze.
Mission of New Horizons for the study of Pluto as well as the Outer Solar System
- New Horizon is the first spacecraft mission that explores Pluto very closely.
- The main objectives of the new horizon mission are Pluto Flyby, Kuiper Belt object Flyby
- The mass of the new horizon spacecraft is 1,054 pounds
- The spacecraft was launched by the vehicle named Atlas V 551(AV-010)
- The mission was launched on the date of January 19, 2006, at the launch site of Cape Canaveral, Fla. / Launch Complex 41
Scientific Instruments fitted in the Mission
- Ralph-Visible and Infrared Imager/Spectrometer: – Visible and infrared imager/spectrometer; provides colors, composition, and thermal maps.
- Alice-Ultraviolet Imaging Spectrometer: – Ultraviolet imaging spectrometer; analyzes the composition and structure of Pluto’s atmosphere and looks for atmospheres around Charon and Kuiper Belt Objects (KBOs).
- Radio-Science Experiment (REX): – Measures atmospheric composition and temperature; passive radiometer.
- Long-Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI): – telescopic camera; obtains encounter data at long distances, maps Pluto’s far side, and provides high-resolution geologic data.
- Solar Wind and Plasma Spectrometer (SWAP): – Solar wind and plasma spectrometer; measures atmospheric “escape rate” and observes Pluto’s interaction with the solar wind.
- Pluto Energetic Particle Spectrometer Science Investigation (PEPSI): – Energetic particle spectrometer; measures the composition and density of plasma (ions) escaping from Pluto’s atmosphere.
- Student Dust Counter (SDC): – Built and operated by students; measures the space dust peppering New Horizons during its voyage across the solar system.