Don’t you just love mind-boggling facts about space and planets? Well I do, and if you are reading, you probably do too. I have also provided facts about planets other than Pluto too, head over here to read those too. So, Pluto, huh? The object remained the planet for 76 years before it was declared a dwarf planet in 2006. The planet which takes 248 years to complete one revolution around the sun. If this excites you, then you must not stop reading and know all interesting Pluto Facts for kids.
Mind-Boggling Pluto facts for Kids (and adults):
What is Kuiper Belt?
Kuiper Belt is a vast ring of objects revolving around the sun beyond the planet Neptune. Pluto was the first object to be discovered in the Kuiper Belt and was declared as the ninth Planet.
When was Pluto discovered and who is it named After?
Pluto was discovered in 1930 by Clyde Tombaugh and was considered as the ninth planet in our solar system until the term “planet” was defined in 2006. We have been calling Pluto a dwarf planet since 2006. The Greek Underworld God Hades is the one Pluto was named after. This named was a recommendation from an eleven year old Oxford student girl named Venetia Burney.
Why is Pluto not considered as a Planet anymore?
Before 2006, there was no specific definition of a planet. The International Astronomical Union (IAU) had to properly define the term “planet” after the discovery of ERIS in 2005, another object in Kuiper Belt which is 27% larger than the dwarf planet Pluto. So, they both were declared as Dwarf Planets as there were other objects similar in size to them. Later on (during the same time), with the help of more accurate measures, it was found that Pluto was indeed bigger than ERIS (diameter: 2326 km). So, Pluto (diameter: 2377 km) remains the largest dwarf planet in the solar system.
An object smaller than our Moon, has 5 moons of it’s own
The largest of the moons of Pluto is Charon which is also the closest to it. Interestingly, Charon is a massive moon when compared to the size of Pluto itself. Together, they could easily make a double dwarf planet. Moreover, Charon is tidally locked (explained at the bottom) with Pluto just like our own moon is tidally locked with the earth. This is one of most astonishing Pluto facts for kids.
A lot of water on Pluto
Though not in the liquid form, but Pluto does have water in ice form. In fact, one third of Pluto is water. Interestingly, Pluto’s water is more than thrice the water we have on earth.
Besides one-third part water, the other two-thirds are occupied by rocks which also include numerous mountains. Pluto’s surface is cratered, showing signs of collision with other objects time to time, like the planet Mercury.
Pluto’s rotation and revolution
Pluto takes about 6.39 earth days to complete one rotation on it’s axis. Moreover, it take 248 years for Pluto to complete one full revolution of the sun. Since it has an eccentric and inclined orbit, it sometimes comes closer to the Sun than Neptune does. 248 years is in itself one of the most mind-blowing Pluto facts for kids.
Probes to Pluto
New Horizons is the one and only probe sent to study the surface of Pluto as of now. It left the earth on January 19th, 2006 by NASA and was sent into the solar escape trajectory at a speed of whopping 16.26 km per second, which will enable it to finally exit our solar system. On February 28th, 2007 it made it’s closest approach to the Planet Jupiter who’s gravity allowed it to gain more speed and then continued it’s journey towards Pluto. On July 14th, 2015, it made it’s closest Flyby to Pluto at a distance of just 12500 km away from the planet. It is expected to make a close Flyby around another object in Kuiper Belt on January 1st, 2019. Interestingly, New Horizon is the Fifth man-made object to achieve escape velocity and finally exit the solar system.
How far is Pluto?
Short answer would be: VERY. Now for the long answer, Pluto is 39.5 AU (astronomical units) away from the Sun (about 5.9 billion km). 1 AU is the distance between the earth and the sun. Which is why it took the New Horizons 8 more years to reach Pluto after crossing Jupiter in 2007.
Pluto has a variable atmosphere
Due to it’s eccentric orbit, when Pluto comes closer to the SUN, it’s ice form a very thin atmosphere consisting of nitrogen and methane (up till 161 km above the surface). Moreover, the atmosphere freezes back when Pluto starts to slide away from the SUN.
What is Tidal Locking?
When two co-orbiting bodies (planet and the moon) maintain interaction for a very long period of time, their respective gravitational forces make changes in their rotational pattern and turn them into a harmonic ratio with both of their orbital period. Once this is achieved, tidal locking is done. In layman terms, when two bodies are tidally locked with each other, one hemisphere of one particular body (the smaller one) always faces the other object. Moreover, the smaller object’s rotation period and revolution period becomes same. For instance, the moon orbits the earth every 27.some days and it also rotates on it’s own axis every same 27.some days. Furthermore, we always see only one side of the moon.
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