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Seeking Pluto’s Frigid Heart (The New York Times)

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  • Get Lost in Space! (9/14/2018) - Way back in August, in anticipation of the start of a new school year, I set out to update the pages on this site related to space. Those pages tend to be popular among the teachers and students who use Cosma, and I happen to enjoy updating them, too. It sounded like a short, fun … Continue reading Get Lost in Space!

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Solar System Exploration: Pluto (NASA)
New Horizons: Exploring Pluto and Beyond (Elizabeth Howell, Space.com)
New Horizons: NASA’s Pluto-Kuiper Belt Mission (Official Site, Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory)
New Horizons Mission (NASA)

Dictionary

Pluto : a dwarf planet occupying an orbit that crosses the orbit of Neptune — in 2006 the International Astronomical Union defined planet in such a way as to exclude Pluto, reclassifying it instead as a dwarf planet. Although discussion of the matter continues, the change has been widely accepted — Webster

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Pluto is a dwarf planet in the Kuiper belt, a ring of bodies beyond Neptune. It was the first Kuiper belt object to be discovered.

Pluto was discovered by Clyde Tombaugh in 1930 and was originally considered to be the ninth planet from the Sun. After 1992, its planethood was questioned following the discovery of several objects of similar size in the Kuiper belt. In 2005, Eris, which is 27% more massive than Pluto, was discovered. This led the International Astronomical Union (IAU) to define the term “planet” formally in 2006, during their 26th General Assembly. That definition excluded Pluto and reclassified it as a dwarf planet.

Pluto is the largest and second-most-massive known dwarf planet in the Solar System and the ninth-largest and tenth-most-massive known object directly orbiting the Sun. It is the largest known trans-Neptunian object by volume but is less massive than Eris, a dwarf planet in the scattered disc. Like other Kuiper belt objects, Pluto is primarily made of ice and rock and is relatively small—about one-sixth the mass of the Moon and one-third its volume. It has a moderately eccentric and inclined orbit during which it ranges from 30 to 49 astronomical units or AU (4.4–7.4 billion km) from the Sun. This means that Pluto periodically comes closer to the Sun than Neptune, but a stable orbital resonance with Neptune prevents them from colliding.

Pluto has five known moons: Charon (the largest, with a diameter just over half that of Pluto), Styx, Nix, Kerberos, and Hydra. Pluto and Charon are sometimes considered a binary system because the barycenter of their orbits does not lie within either body. The IAU has not formalized a definition for binary dwarf planets, and Charon is officially classified as a moon of Pluto. — Wikipedia

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New Horizons: Exploring Pluto and Beyond (Elizabeth Howell, Space.com)
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Pluto News -- ScienceDaily Dwarf Planet Pluto News. See images and read science articles on Pluto, Eris and other Kuiper Belt objects.

  • Odd bodies, rapid spins keep cosmic rings close
    on November 19, 2018 at 8:59 pm

    Forget those shepherding moons. Gravity and the odd shapes of asteroid Chariklo and dwarf planet Haumea -- small objects deep in our solar system -- can be credited for forming and maintaining their own rings, according new research. […]

  • Studying Pluto orbiter mission
    on October 24, 2018 at 8:36 pm

    Astronomers have made several discoveries that expand the range and value of a future Pluto orbiter mission. The breakthroughs define a fuel-saving orbital tour and demonstrate that an orbiter can continue exploration in the Kuiper Belt after surveying Pluto. […]

  • Astronomers find first compelling evidence for a...
    on October 3, 2018 at 6:29 pm

    On the hunt for distant worlds, researchers have identified an exomoon candidate around the transiting exoplanet Kepler-1625b that indicates the presence of a previously unknown gas-giant moon. […]

  • New extremely distant solar system object found...
    on October 2, 2018 at 2:29 pm

    Astronomers have discovered a new extremely distant object far beyond Pluto with an orbit that supports the presence of an even-farther-out, Super-Earth or larger Planet X. […]

  • Pluto should be reclassified as a planet, experts...
    on September 7, 2018 at 3:04 pm

    The reason Pluto lost its planet status is not valid, according to new research. […]


Phys.org - latest science and technology news stories Phys.org internet news portal provides the latest news on science including: Physics, Nanotechnology, Life Sciences, Space Science, Earth Science, Environment, Health and Medicine.

  • Geminids meteor shower: An astrophysicist on what...
    on December 11, 2018 at 2:50 pm

    The Geminids meteor shower peaks on the mornings of December 13 and 14, 2018 – but if you look up any time there's a clear night sky up until December 17, you might just catch a glimpse of a Geminid meteor. […]

  • The water in Saturn's rings and satellites is...
    on December 3, 2018 at 4:03 pm

    By developing a new method for measuring isotopic ratios of water and carbon dioxide remotely, scientists have found that the water in Saturn's rings and satellites is unexpectedly like water on the Earth, except on Saturn's moon Phoebe, where the water is more unusual than on any other object so far studied in the Solar System. […]

  • NASA's Lucy in the sky with … asteroids?
    on November 22, 2018 at 11:56 am

    A little over 4 billion years ago, the planets in our solar system coexisted with vast numbers of small rocky or icy objects orbiting the Sun. These were the last remnants of the planetesimals – the primitive building blocks that formed the planets. Most of these leftover objects were then lost, as shifts in the orbits of the giant planets scattered them to the distant outer reaches of the solar system or beyond. But some were captured in two less-distant regions, near points where the […]

  • Odd bodies, rapid spins keep cosmic rings close
    on November 19, 2018 at 5:27 pm

    Forget those shepherding moons. Gravity and the odd shapes of asteroid Chariklo and dwarf planet Haumea—small objects deep in our solar system—can be credited for forming and maintaining their own rings, according new research in Nature Astronomy. […]

  • Washboard and fluted terrains on Pluto as...
    on November 13, 2018 at 9:08 pm

    A letter authored by SETI Institute scientist Oliver White was published by Nature Astronomy today. Co-authors included researchers Jeff Moore, Tanguy Bertrand and Kimberly Ennico at NASA's Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley. […]


Pluto New Horizons News and images from the Pluto New Horizons team

  • The PI’s Perspective: Share the News—The...
    by ptalbert on November 27, 2018 at 8:13 pm

    The New Horizons spacecraft is healthy and is now beginning its final approach to explore Ultima Thule — our first Kuiper Belt object (KBO) flyby target — about a billion miles beyond Pluto. And on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, New Horizons will swoop three times closer to “Ultima” than we flew past […]

  • The PI’s Perspective: Why Didn’t Voyager...
    by ptalbert on February 28, 2018 at 7:51 pm

    New Horizons is in good health and cruising closer each day to our next encounter, an end-of-the-year flyby of the Kuiper Belt object (KBO) 2014 MU69 (or “MU69” for short). Currently, the spacecraft is hibernating while the mission team plans the MU69 flyby. During hibernation, three of the instruments on New Horizons—SWAP, PEPSSI and SDC—collect […]

  • The PI’s Perspective: Wrapping up 2017 En Route...
    by ptalbert on December 6, 2017 at 3:31 pm

    New Horizons is in good health and cruising closer each day to its next encounter: a flyby of the Kuiper Belt object (KBO) 2014 MU69 (or “MU69” for short). If you follow our mission, you likely know that flyby will occur on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day 2019, which is just barely over […]

  • No Sleeping Back on Earth!
    by ptalbert on April 28, 2017 at 1:54 pm

    Today’s blog is from Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado—principal investigator for NASA’s New Horizons mission. Three weeks ago we put our New Horizons spacecraft into hibernation mode, the first time we’d done that since late 2014, before the Pluto flyby. By coincidence, that same day – April 7—was also the […]

  • Exploring Pluto and a Billion Miles Beyond
    by ptalbert on December 22, 2016 at 4:34 pm

    Today’s blog is from Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado—principal investigator for NASA’s New Horizons mission.   As 2016 ends, I can’t help but point out an interesting symmetry in where the mission has recently been and where we are going. Exactly two years ago we had just taken New Horizons […]



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