The System’s Smallest

By: Dubem M.

Name Pluto
Status Dwarf Planet, Planet (former)
Circumference 7,232 km
Temperature -229°C (-380.2°F)
Moon(s) Charon, Nix, Styx, Hydra, Kerberos
Distance from Earth (closest) 4.28 billion kilometres
Distance from the Sun 5.9 billion Kilometres

Pluto is dwarf planet that was discovered by Clyde Tombaugh on February 18, 1930. It is the outermost planet-like body in our solar system with Plutonian year that is equal to 264.04 Earth years. It is located in the Kuiper Belt, a disk-like region filled with icy comets and is scattered with hundreds of thousands of rocky bodies. Unlike its neighbours, Pluto is a rock planet that is mostly composed of ice, and is the smallest planet-like body in our solar system, with a 6.6% the Earth’s gravity.

Pluto’s status has been a topic of discussion for many years. Pluto used to be the considered the ninth and most distant planet from the Sun, but it is now considered the largest dwarf planet in our solar system. Many believed that is did not meet the criteria of a planet because of its size. In 2006, Pluto’s demotion from a planet to a dwarf planet stirred conversation in the scientific community and in the general public. Scholars announced that Pluto was too small to be a planet. Further investigation proved that Pluto was smaller than Mercury and was even smaller than the Earth’s Moon. Moreover, Pluto is so small that it cannot clear objects like asteroids and comets from its path of orbit. Which means that asteroids and comets are littered around Pluto’s orbit path, impeding its movement. However, on July 14, 2015 NASA made an incredibly close fly-by to Pluto, and photographed never seen before pictures of Pluto’s surface. 

Pluto’s value has been underestimated, but recent, but it has its own fair share of interesting facts ranging from its origin to its journey to the outside of the solar system. Here are some facts you may not have known about Pluto.

  •      Pluto’s was named by an 11 year old from Oxford, England.
  • At some points in Pluto’s orbit it will be closer to the Sun than Neptune and this is when its summer begins, and this will last for about 20 years.
  •  During a Plutonian “summer” the surface sublimates and creates methane and nitrogen atmosphere during this period Pluto’s atmosphere rivals that of Mars.   
  • Pluto has a discoloration on its surface that resembles a heart or Pluto the Dog
  • It is speculated that Pluto has a hot core, which could lead to life under Pluto’s crust inside the liquid mantle.

Pluto could be the key to life on other planets. Even though its harsh and cold temperatures makes its surface barren, it could still sustain life underwater. So what do you think? If we were to set up a colony on Pluto how well do think we would do?

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