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

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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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Pluto News -- ScienceDaily Dwarf Planet Pluto News. See images and read science articles on Pluto, Eris and other Kuiper Belt objects.

  • Scientists introduce cosmochemical model for...
    on May 25, 2018 at 1:54 pm

    Scientists integrated NASA's New Horizons discoveries with data from ESA's Rosetta mission to develop a new theory about how Pluto may have formed at the edge of our solar system. […]

  • Pluto's largest moon, Charon, gets its first...
    on April 12, 2018 at 2:28 pm

    Legendary explorers and visionaries, real and fictitious, are among those immortalized by the IAU in the first set of official surface-feature names for Pluto's largest moon, Charon. […]

  • Pluto's hydrocarbon haze keeps dwarf planet...
    on November 15, 2017 at 6:09 pm

    The gas composition of a planet's atmosphere generally determines how much heat gets trapped in the atmosphere. For the dwarf planet Pluto, however, the predicted temperature based on the composition of its atmosphere was much higher than actual measurements taken by NASA's New Horizons spacecraft in 2015. A new study proposes a novel cooling mechanism controlled by haze particles to account for Pluto's frigid atmosphere. […]

  • Haumea, the most peculiar of Pluto companions,...
    on October 12, 2017 at 1:33 pm

    The trans-neptunian belt contains four dwarf planets, among which Haumea stands out for its extremely elongated shape and rapid rotation. A stellar occultation makes it possible to establish the main physical characteristics of this previously little known body -- among which most surprising was the presence of a ring. […]

  • Solving the mystery of Pluto's giant blades of ice
    on September 28, 2017 at 7:24 pm

    NASA's New Horizons mission revolutionized our knowledge of Pluto when it flew past that distant world in July 2015. Among its many discoveries were images of strange formations resembling giant knife blades of ice, whose origin had remained a mystery. Now, scientists have turned up a fascinating explanation for this "bladed terrain": the structures are made almost entirely of methane ice, and likely formed as a specific kind of erosion wore away their surfaces. […]