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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

Pluto (Eric Weisstein’s World of Astronomy, Wolfram Research)
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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)
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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.

  • 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. […]

  • A dozen new moons of Jupiter discovered,...
    on July 17, 2018 at 2:12 pm

    Twelve new moons orbiting Jupiter have been found -- 11 'normal' outer moons, and one that they're calling an 'oddball.' Astronomers first spotted the moons in the spring of 2017 while they were looking for very distant solar system objects as part of the hunt for a possible massive planet far beyond Pluto. […]

  • Secrets behind Pluto's dunes revealed
    on May 31, 2018 at 6:27 pm

    Scientists have discovered dunes on Pluto, and say they are likely to have been formed of methane ice grains released into its rarefied atmosphere. […]


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.

  • Five in a row—the planets align in the night sky
    on October 12, 2018 at 12:05 pm

    For the second time this year, the five brightest planets can be seen at the same time. You can catch them by looking towards the western sky after sunset. The planets will form a line rising up from the horizon. […]

  • Giant, jagged 'ice spikes' cover Jupiter's moon...
    on October 9, 2018 at 7:27 am

    If you're planning a trip to Jupiter's moon Europa, be prepared for a rough landing. […]

  • New Horizons sets up for New Year's flyby of...
    on October 5, 2018 at 8:42 pm

    NASA's New Horizons spacecraft carried out a short engine burn on Oct. 3 to home in on the location and timing of its New Year's flyby of the Kuiper Belt object nicknamed Ultima Thule. […]

  • Astronomers find first compelling evidence for a...
    on October 3, 2018 at 6:00 pm

    A pair of Columbia University astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope and Kepler Space Telescope have assembled compelling evidence for the existence of a moon orbiting a gas-giant planet 8,000 light-years away. […]

  • New extremely distant solar system object found...
    on October 2, 2018 at 2:00 pm

    Carnegie's Scott Sheppard and his colleagues—Northern Arizona University's Chad Trujillo, and the University of Hawaii's David Tholen—are once again redefining our Solar System's edge. They 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 New Horizons News and images from the Pluto New Horizons team

  • 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 … Continue reading "The PI’s Perspective: Why Didn’t Voyager Explore the Kuiper Belt?" […]

  • 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 … Continue reading "The PI’s Perspective: Wrapping up 2017 En Route to Our Next Flyby" […]

  • 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 … Continue reading "No Sleeping Back on Earth!" […]

  • 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 … Continue reading "Exploring Pluto and a Billion Miles Beyond" […]

  • Pluto: What a Journey!
    by ptalbert on August 4, 2016 at 5:05 pm

    This blog is from Hal Weaver, who joined the New Horizons team in May 2002, his first assignment after taking a job at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. He started out as the principal investigator for the LOng Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) and in 2003 became the New Horizons project scientist. Now that … Continue reading "Pluto: What a Journey!" […]


Pluto Pictures of the Day Pluto Pictures of the Day.

  • Imagine a Landing on Pluto
    on July 17, 2016 at 6:06 am

    Explanation: Made from more than 100 New Horizons images taken over six weeks of approach and close flyby, this video offers a trip in to Pluto — starting with a distant spacecraft's-eye view of Pluto and its largest moon, Charon, to an eventual ride in for a "landing" on the shoreline of Pluto's informally named Sputnik Planum. The video shows what it would be like to ride aboard an...Countdown to Pluto Encounter!There are -1190 days, -3 hours, -39 minutes and -40 seconds until […]

  • Where is New Horizons now? (July 2016)
    on July 16, 2016 at 6:09 am

    Explanation: Pluto picture of the day may be winding down, but New Horizons still travels on. One year after the Pluto flyby, this image shows New Horizons' current position along its full planned trajectory. The green segment of the line shows where New Horizons has traveled since launch; the red indicates the spacecraft's future path. Positions of stars with magnitude 12 or brighter ar... […]


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