Pluto is 4.67 billion miles away from Earth. At a certain condition, the two celestial bodies are only 2.66 billion miles apart. NASA sent the New Horizons spacecraft on a mission to visit Pluto, and it is expected to reach the Pluto-Charon system 11 years after its take-off on Jan. 19, 2006.Know More
The distances between planets in the solar system vary constantly because they travel in elliptical orbits rather than perfect circles. The heavenly bodies are in constant motion, which is why they are not always in preferred positions at the time of a mission launch. This factor causes delay to reach a target destination.
Probes sent by scientists to learn more about celestial bodies need a lot of help during space travel. Satellites frequently require fuel-less acceleration, therefore they use the gravity of planets, moons and even the sun. The New Horizons mission, only the fifth probe to cross interplanetary space, is trying to surpass what the Voyager and Pioneer accomplished. The spacecraft already passed by Mars and received gravity assistance from Jupiter on its way to Pluto. Its closest approach to the dwarf planet is expected to occur at 7:49:59 a.m. EDT on July 14, 2015, based on NASA's calculation.Learn more in Planets
Although astronomers have not observed any rings on Pluto, some scientists believe that Pluto may have rings due to the low gravitational pull of its two moons. NASA’s New Horizons mission may provide further information on the existence of rings around Pluto.Full Answer >
When Pluto has an atmosphere, it is thought to be made up of methane, nitrogen and carbon monoxide in gaseous form. This atmosphere outgases from the ice on Pluto's surface when it is closest to the sun, which warms the planet and causes the ice to sublimate.Full Answer >
The planet Pluto is named after Pluto, the god of the underworld in Greek and Roman mythology. The name was suggested by a young girl, Venetia Burney Phair, in 1930 when she heard the news that a new planet had been discovered in the solar system.Full Answer >
Pluto is only slightly over 1400 miles wide, about half the width of the continental United States. From its discovery in 1930 until 2006, Pluto was the ninth planet of the solar system, but in 2006, it was demoted to dwarf planet status.Full Answer >