While humans have made numerous discoveries within our solar system, there is still a plethora of things that remain unknown. The planets are one of the biggest discoveries of the universe. Traditionally, science recognized 9 planets until they demoted Pluto in 2006. Until now, the scientific community still debates on Pluto’s demotion. So, is Pluto a planet or not?
Pluto Facts Infographics
Clyde Tombaugh discovered Pluto when he was only 24.
Before Pluto’s discovery, astronomers noticed a shift in the orbits of Neptune and Uranus due to the gravity of an unknown object. Clyde Tombaugh dedicated his time observing the night sky at the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona. Finally, he confirmed the existence of Pluto on February 18, 1930 at the age of 24.
Interlocking letters P and L serve as the official symbol for Pluto.
Aside from being the first letters of the dwarf planet, they are also the initials of American astronomer Percival Lowell. His initiation for searching for a planet beyond Neptune led to the discovery of Pluto. The Lowell Observatory that Tombaugh was working in was named after Percival.
The name ‘Pluto’ came from an 11-year-old girl.
Venetia Burney from Oxford, England suggested the name after the 1930 discovery. Her grandfather then forwarded it to the Lowell Observatory. When it got selected, Pluto became the first and only planet named by an 11-year-old girl. Now that’s one for unexpected Pluto facts.
As per Burney’s suggestion, ‘Pluto’ shall be named after the Roman god of the underworld.
Pluto’s character in Roman mythology is son to Saturn. While Pluto ruled the underworld, his brother Jupiter controlled the sky and his brother Neptune controlled the sea.
Pluto is one of many miniature icy worlds in the Kuiper Belt.
Other names for these icy and rocky bodies are ‘plutoids,’ ‘transneptunian objects,’ or ‘Kuiper Belt objects.’
Pluto became a ‘dwarf planet’ in 2006.
The discovery of Pluto being a ‘plutoid’ in the Kuiper Belt costed its spot as the 9th planet of the solar system. Hence, Pluto’s planet status only lasted for 76 years.
Aside from Pluto, another dwarf planet in the solar system is the Ceres planet.
Other solar system objects under the same category are Eris and Makemake. As their label suggests, these ‘dwarf planets’ are much smaller in size compared to the major planets.
People have petitioned for Pluto to be recognized as a planet again.
The decision made in the year 2006 witnessed widespread outrage on behalf of Pluto. Along with the updates of the textbooks came the onslaught of several internet-spawned memes picturing Pluto going from angry to sad in a range of emotions.
Disney named Pluto the Pup after the dwarf planet.
Pluto debuted in 1930 as a faithful companion to Mickey Mouse. As it was the same year of Tombaugh’s discovery of the planet, there were speculations that the multinational entertainment conglomerate aimed to capitalize the dog on the planet’s popularity.
Pluto did not qualify for the de facto planet definition.
If you’ve ever wondered why Pluto isn’t a planet anymore, look no further: As per NASA, a ‘planet’ must “orbit a star, be big enough to have enough gravity to force it into a spherical shape, and be big enough that its gravity cleared away any other objects of similar size near its orbit around the Sun.”
Still, some astronomers appeal for Pluto’s classification as a planet due to its atmosphere, clouds, cores, geology, moons, polar caps, and seasons.
Pluto’s surface consists of craters, mountains, valleys, and plains.
The icy Pluto temperature can go from -226 to -240°C or -375 to -400°F.
Some of the interesting features of Pluto are its mountains of big water ice blocks.
These peaks can reach heights of 6,500-9,800 ft or 2-3 km. Sometimes, frozen gases such as methane coat these ice mountains. Moreover, the longs troughs and valleys in Pluto can stretch up to 370 miles or 600 km.
Pluto has a heart-shaped glacier called Tombaugh Regio.
With Pluto being relatively smaller the Earth’s moon, the Tombaugh Regio is approximately the size of Oklahoma and Texas. ‘Tombaugh’ honors the discoverer of the planet while ‘Regio’ is the Latin term for ‘region.’ Aside from having blue skies, spinning moons, and mountains as high as the Rockies, Pluto also has snow but in red.
Pluto is the only known dwarf planet to have an atmosphere it.
However, Pluto’s atmosphere is too thin and toxic to human breathing. When Pluto is closest to the sun (perihelion), its atmosphere is gas. Otherwise, Pluto farthest from the sun (aphelion) has a freezing atmosphere that falls like snow.
Pluto was in perihelion from 1979 to 1999.
Aside from being in its closest to the sun, Pluto also crossed the orbit of Neptune. It means that Pluto came closer to the sun than Neptune during this time, making Neptune the farthest planet from the sun as well. How’s that for strange Pluto facts?