Pluto, which was once considered to be the ninth planet of our solar system, is now the largest known dwarf planet present in our solar system. A member of the Kuiper Belt, it’s the largest known member after the planet Neptune. After its discovery in 2006, the International Astronomical Union decided that Pluto is too small and it elaborates as one of the Facts of Pluto for Kids which is to be termed as a planet, and why it was reclassified to dwarf planet.
In 1905, the American astronomer Percival Lowell first observed the first hints of Pluto’s existence from the awkward deviations that he observed in the orbits of Uranus and Neptune. He found that another world’s gravity was tugging both these planets from beyond effecting their orbits. In 1915, he speculated that there might be another planet present beyond Neptune that might cause the deviations. However, before being able to find Pluto, he passed away.
Pluto was finally discovered by Clyde Tombaugh in 1930 at the Lowell Observatory based on the calculations and predictions of Lowell and other astronomers. A fact of Pluto for kids is it was named by an 11-year-old, Venetia Burney at Oxford, who suggested the name to her grandfather who then passed the name to Lowell Observatory. Also, the name made sense as it had p and l as its first two letters, incidentally the initials of Percival Lowell who first observed the first hints of the planet.
Physical characteristics of the Pluto
As Pluto is very far from earth, very little was known about the dwarf planet’s physical
characteristics. However, in July 2015, NASA’s New Horizons space probe made a historic flyby of Pluto which opened new doors for the scientists, astronomers, and people to know about the dwarf planet. The flyby showed that Pluto has a diameter of 1473 miles which was more significant than what the scientists thought it was. It’s almost one-fifth the diameter of the Earth and even smaller than the size of Earth’s moon that makes an addition to the facts of Pluto for kids.
The flyby revealed all the different landscapes of the dwarf planet. It includes a mountain range that is as high as 11,000 feet, like the Rocky Mountains on Earth. Nitrogen and methane ice cover Pluto completely. New Horizon also found that Pluto boasts a large number of ice ridges that look like knives from above. Pluto is one of the coldest places in the solar system with the temperatures reaching minus 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Also, the changing red color of the dwarf planet has led the astronomers to believe Pluto might have seasons that change regularly. As it’s mentioned in the top kid facts about Venus, both Pluto and Venus are celestial bodies that orbit around the Sun in our Solar system.
Facts of Pluto for kids and adults they might not know about
Now that you know Pluto is one of the essential parts of our solar system, and it cannot be ignored just because it’s a dwarf planet, you might want to know more about it. Here are some of the facts about the dwarf planet that you might not know:
It’s not dense like other planets
Most planets in our solar system are dense and filled with hard and rocky surfaces. However, this is not the case with Pluto. One-third of the planet’s total mass is ice which makes the planet less dense than other planets present in our solar system. This doesn’t mean that it’s very small, it still is almost one fifth the size of Earth.
Pluto has not even completed one orbit
As the dwarf planet was discovered in 1930, we are still to see it achieving its orbit around the sun.
It’s been just 86 years since the planet was found and to see it complete a full orbit around the sun, we have to wait more 160.68 years. A single Plutonian year is almost 247.68 Earth years.
Pluto has five moons
Although Pluto is decidedly smaller when compared to other planets, it still has five moons. These moons are possibly the debris that is present at the edge of the Kuiper Belt. The five natural satellites of Pluto are named Styx, Nix, Charon, Hydra, and Kerberos. These moons are tiny and can be thought of as large asteroids. The smallest moon of Pluto, Hydra is just five miles in diameter.
Pluto and Charon are a binary system
Charon is the largest moon of Pluto, and it’s huge when compared with the size of the dwarf planet. The moon is almost one eighth the size of Pluto which makes it big enough to take the center of mass of both of them outside the dwarf planet. This is why Pluto and Charon have been orbiting around that formed center making them the only binary system of a planet and a moon directly observed in our solar system.
It has an atmosphere
Contrary to popular beliefs, Pluto actually does have an atmosphere. This has been confirmed by the New Horizons space probe after completing the flyby of Pluto. The atmosphere of Pluto is very thin and is made of nitrogen completely. As the dwarf planet’s mass is very low, the gas envelope making the atmosphere spread out far into space. This has resulted in the solar winds stripping away most of its parts.
The famous heart of Pluto is caused by frost
During the flyby of the New Horizons space probe, people noticed a heart-shaped feature on the surface of the dwarf planet. The image of the heart-shaped feature on Pluto became viral almost instantly after people saw it. Actually, the astronomers believe that this light-colored region that looks like a heart shape on the surface of the moon is caused by frost. The frost is believed to be formed from methane, carbon monoxide, and nitrogen.
Pluto’s orbit intersects the orbit of Neptune
Our solar system consists of 8 planets excluding the dwarf planet, and out of all of those, Pluto has the most eccentric orbit. It’s so eccentric that it also intersects the orbit of Neptune and comes near to the sun for almost 20 years. This might make you think that this would result in Neptune’s mass ejecting Pluto from its orbit. However, that is not the case as both the planets have an orbital resonance which means that they are never in the same region of space at any given point of time.
The planet rotates slowly and in the opposite direction
When compared with other planets, Pluto rotates very slowly. This is why one day in Pluto is equal to almost 6.4 days on earth, another kid facts about earth – The surface temperature ranges from-88 to 55°C, whereas it’s -229°C for Pluto. Also, it rotates from east to west, like Neptune and Venus. Here are other fun facts about Pluto for kids – Pluto rotates on its sides, like Neptune.
Pluto is quite young and has tall ice mountains
Studies done after the flyby of the New Horizons space probe has shown that Pluto is less than 100 million years and is free from craters that are created due to the impact of asteroids and other foreign objects. This makes the dwarf planet younger than most of the other planets. Also, the flyby revealed mysterious ice mountains rising as high as 11,000 feet above the surface of Pluto. This means that the mountain peaks are higher than the rocky mountains of Earth.
Pluto was almost discovered more than 10 times before being finally discovered
If you think that Clyde Tombaugh was the only person to identify Pluto as a planet, you’re wrong. Pluto was actually sighted more than a dozen times before Tombaugh finally said that it’s a planet. Percival Lowell first saw the glimpses of Pluto being a planet and apart from it, there are pieces of evidence that show there were many other astronomers as well who saw Pluto on their telescopes makes this as one of the facts of Pluto for kids.
However, no one realized the fact that it could be a planet. There’s also a probable Pluto sighting in the year 1909 by an astronomer.
You might think Pluto is dark, but it’s not
More facts of Pluto for kids, it’s the farthest object from the sun in our solar system, you might think that it would be dark on the planet. However, that is not the case, and Pluto is brighter than what you might think. At noon on Pluto, you get enough brightness to be able to read a book without any issues.
It’s not Pluto, it’s 134340 Pluto
In 2006, when Pluto was demoted from being a planet to a dwarf planet, it got another official name. Basically, dwarf planets are named like the asteroids and the MPC (Minor Planet Designation) is used to find a suitable name for the dwarf planet. This is why Pluto was officially renamed to 134340 Pluto.