Pluto, the tenth-largest body found to be revolving around the Sun, is the second-largest dwarf planet. Pluto, which was previously a planet, has recently been classified under the members of the Kuiper belt. Pluto is now the largest member of the Kuiper belt region.
Ten Interesting Facts about Pluto
- There is an interesting story behind the discovery of Pluto. Researchers had been observing a disruption in the orbit of Uranus since a long time. They believed it to be caused by some celestial body other than Neptune. Percival Lowell and William Pickering started researching the subject. They had managed to obtain two images, but they could not predict the position of this planet they thought to exist. Clyde Tombaugh discovered Pluto in 1930. Interestingly, the name 'Pluto' is believed to have been suggested by Venetia Burney, an 11-year-old girl of Oxford, England.
- Pluto is composed of rock and ice and has one-fifth the mass of the Earth's moon. Its eccentric nature takes it from 30 to 49 AU from the Sun, thus causing it to occasionally come so close to the Sun, that it surpasses Neptune in its proximity to the Sun.
- The orbit of Pluto is highly inclined and strikingly different from the orbits of the other planets. For every three orbits of Neptune around the Sun, Pluto makes two. The two bodies return to their original positions and the cycle of orbiting repeats. Each cycle takes 500 years to complete.
- Pluto is composed of rock and ice. It is brownish yellow in color. Its atmosphere is in the form of a thin envelope of nitrogen, methane and carbon monoxide. As Pluto moves farther from the Sun, its atmosphere freezes and as it moves closer, the ice sublimates to form gas.
- Some studies say that if Pluto had been closer to the Sun, it would have been a comet. Being composed of rock and ice, it would not have lasted long in proximity of the Sun.
- Pluto has three natural satellites of its own. Charon was discovered in 1978 while the other two satellites namely, Nix and Hydra were found in 2005. Pluto's moons are exceptionally close to it. Scientists say that the Plutonian system composed of Pluto and its satellites is very compact.
- When one of the natural satellites of Pluto passes in front of the Sun, it blocks light to Pluto. This causes an eclipse-like phenomenon on Pluto. An eclipse can occur when the orbital nodes of one of Pluto's satellites aligns with the position of the Sun as seen from Pluto.
- According to Western astrology, Pluto is the ruling planet of Scorpio. It is considered to be spending around 21 years in each zodiac sign. Pluto is believed to represent that part of a person, which gets destroyed in order to renew. Pluto is said to govern business, wealth and detective work and is associated with extreme power.
- Many consider that Charon revolves around Pluto. However, in reality, Pluto and Charon together orbit a common point in space. The common point around which Pluto and Charon orbit exists above the surface of Pluto. This phenomenon made the astronomers think of classifying Pluto under a binary planet system.
- A day on Pluto lasts for 6 days and 9 hours, meaning that it has very less speed of rotation. No spacecraft has yet landed on Pluto. However, in 2016, a spacecraft may land on it. We can hope for 2016 to witness the making of history!
The International Astronomical Union (IAU) declared that Pluto cannot be considered as a planet. Pluto was caught in a controversy. Some thought it wrong to disregard the planetary status of Pluto. Some believed that it did not meet all the criteria of being called a planet and that it should not be called so. The verdict said that Pluto be called a dwarf planet and that's what it is regarded as, today.