10 Awesome Pluto Facts
Little did Clyde W. Tombaugh know that on the night of February 18th 1930 his discovery would lead to the greatest divide in the astronomical community since the beginning of time…
OK, well that might be a slight exaggeration, but maybe not. Either way, the great (once a Planet, now a Dwarf Planet) Pluto was discovered that night by famed Astronomer Clyde Tombaugh at the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona.
Clyde was using a 13 inch astrograph to take photographs to compare the same location in space and identify any moving objects. If an object was moving, it would appear as though it was jumping from one frame to the next.
Clyde was tasked with continuing the work of Percival Lowell and William H. Pickering, who had been theorizing that a 9th planet existed in the outer realms of the Solar System. After nearly 2 decades and many legal battles later, the Lowell Observatory continued its efforts to identify the 9th planet; known at that time as Planet X. In 1929 as work continued, Clyde was only 23 years old.
After roughly a year of work, Clyde Tombaugh identified an object which appeared to be moving in the multi-frame analysis he was conducting using his astrograph. See below for the 2 slides Clyde used to identify what we now call, Pluto.
Here are the actual photographic plates used by Clyde Tombaugh when he identified Pluto:
The Planet Pluto had a good life, it was 76 years old (from its official discovery, 1930) when it was pronounced a Dwarf Planet (2006) after failing to meet one of the three criteria a planet must meet to be classified a planet:
- The object must be in orbit around the Sun.
- The object must be massive enough to be rounded by its own gravity. More specifically, its own gravity should pull it into a shape of hydrostatic equilibrium.
- It must have cleared the neighborhood around its orbit.
Pluto Failed #3 above and is now and possibly forever classified as a Dwarf Planet.
Why do People Love Pluto so Much?
Well, it’s tough to say, but many hypothesize if’s because of people’s fondness for its name. Little do many know, Pluto is actually the name of the god who rules the underworld, more commonly known as Hades in Greek mythology.
Pluto was originally referred to as “Planet X” but was later officially named by Venetia Burney, an 11 year old girl from Oxford, England, as Pluto. Pretty awesome.
On March 24, 1930 Planet X’s name was officially changed to Pluto and announced on May 1, 1930. Venetia was awarded £5 (equivalent to roughly $450 USD, 2015) for the unanimous vote on her recommendation.
Later, Walt Disney would be inspired by this planet’s name and would later name one of his most famous characters after it. What child doesn’t grow up loving Pluto, the adorable dog from the Mickey Mouse franchise.
Here are 10 Pluto Facts that will Blow Your Mind!
♇ – #10 on the Awesome List of Pluto Facts:
Pluto isn’t even 1 years old*.
Wait, what? I know, I know! Pluto was discovered in 1930. At the time of this post, that’s 85 (Earth) years ago.
It takes Pluto roughly 246 (Earth) years to orbit the Sun. Which means, it won’t be until the year 2176 that we will be celebrating Pluto’s 1 (Pluto) year anniversary since its discovery here on Earth!
*Don’t worry, Pluto is roughly 4.6 billion years old, just like the rest of the Solar System
♇ – #9 on the Awesome List of Pluto Facts:
Pluto is the best (Dwarf) Planet to diet on.
People looking to drop a few pounds should look into taking a trip to Pluto. Upon arrival, you’ll immediately lose over 93% body weight.
Let’s say you leave Earth weighing 175 pounds, if nothing changed, you’d weigh 11.7 pounds on Pluto. Boom! You just successfully dieted without lifting a finger.
♇ – #8 on the Awesome List of Pluto Facts:
Fitting for number 8 on the list…
Pluto wasn’t always the 9th Planet from the Sun.
For 8% of Pluto’s orbit around the Sun it’s the 8th Planet from the Sun and Neptune is the 9th Planet from the Sun.
Due to its off-center and highly inclined orbit, Pluto is closer to the Sun for roughly 20 years of a complete Pluto (~246 Earth years) orbit.
♇ – #7 on the Awesome List of Pluto Facts:
Pluto is Super Duper Tiny!
Regardless of our massive amounts of love for Pluto, it’s just a little guy. Pluto has a diameter of roughly 1,472 miles. Remember, the definition of a circular object’s diameter is a line which starts at one side of the circle, goes through the center and ends on the other side.
To put this into perspective the Earth has a diameter of 7,917 miles. Making is substantially larger than our beloved Pluto.
If you were to look at Pluto head on and align its left edge with Seattle, WA on a map, its right edge would extend to Detroit Lakes, MN. Not very far, at all. So Pluto isn’t even as wide as the United States.
Pluto is so small, it’s even smaller than Earth’s own Moon. Our Moon has a diameter of 2,160 miles. Pluto would fit inside the Moon, no problem!
♇ – #6 on the Awesome List of Pluto Facts:
There are no sunglasses on Pluto.
The next time you find yourself planning a vacation to Pluto, you can leave your sunglasses at home!
Pluto is so far from the Sun, on average 3,670,050,000 miles from the Sun, the brightness of the Sun’s light is extremely faint by the time it reaches Pluto.
*Perihelion (closest approach to the sun): 2,756,902,000 miles
*Aphelion (farthest distance from the sun): 4,583,190,000 miles
Pluto is so far from the Sun, the Sun’s light takes nearly 5 hours to reach Pluto, traveling at the speed of light (roughly 670,616,629 miles per hour). Compare that to Earth which only takes 8 minutes for us to see the Sun’s light.
Pluto’s daylight is roughly equivalent to the brightness here on Earth, on a clear night, with a full moon.
♇ – #5 on the Awesome List of Pluto Facts:
Pluto’s best friends are extremely clingy.
It’s true, Pluto’s 5 best friends are always by its side, literally. Pluto has 5 moons which are never too far from Pluto’s reach.
Charon, which is the largest of its moons, is a little more than half Pluto’s size. These two objects have such a close friendship they’re sometimes considered a bi-nary system.
♇ – #4 on the Awesome List of Pluto Facts:
Pluto is always exceptionally hydrated.
Pluto is nearly 30% to 50% ice, mostly in the form of water ice. However, it’s also suspected of having what’s known as exotic ices; frozen methane, carbon monoxide and nitrogen closer to the surface. The remaining 50% to 70% is mostly rock and mountains.
The amount of water on Pluto is thought to be nearly 3 times as much as all of the water found in the oceans on Earth.
That’s enough water to fill about 352,670,000,000,000,000,000 gallon-sized milk containers!
♇ – #3 on the Awesome List of Pluto Facts:
Pluto has an atmosphere, hooray!!!
Before you get too excited and think about buying property on Pluto, Pluto has an atmosphere, sometimes. Pluto’s atmosphere can extend nearly 80 miles above the surface, maybe more, which is pretty awesome.
The temporary atmosphere on Pluto is caused but Pluto’s elliptical orbit around the Sun. As Pluto orbits further away from the Sun, it gets much colder on its surface and freezes its ice into a solid state.
As it orbits further from the Sun, the temperature on Pluto gets much warmer causing a thawing of some of its frozen ice, these particles are released and forms a thin atmosphere of methane, nitrogen and carbon monoxide.
♇ – #2 on the Awesome List of Pluto Facts:
Andre 3000 once asked, “What’s cooler than bein’ cool?“, the answer is Pluto.
Pluto is FREEZING cold. During the coldest part of the year, the surface temperature can reach -387 degrees Fahrenheit. To put it into perspective, the coldest temperature recorded anywhere on Earth was on July 21, 1983 in Antarctica, -128 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s basically a third as cold as it gets on Pluto.
♇ – #1 on the Awesome List of Pluto Facts:
Humans have arrived!
On July 14th, 2015 the New Horizons space probe arrived flying above (7,800 miles) the surface of Pluto.
New Horizons wasn’t flying alone, aboard the space probe was about 1 ounce of Clyde Tombaugh’s ashes. Additionally, there was a compact disc of 434,738 names, a piece of SpaceShipOne, a “Not Yet Explored” USPS stamp, a flag of the USA, a Florida state quarter and a dust counter named after Venetia Burney.
This mission departed Earth on January 19th, 2006, taking 9 years, 5 months and 24 days to reach Pluto. This is the equivalent of 3,462 days, 16 hours, 49 minutes and 57 seconds. A seriously long time.
The New Horizons mission was not an easy one and was even cancelled and started again. The cost of this mission is estimated to be more than $700 million US dollars over the course of the 15 years it has been underway,