Once considered the 9th major planet of our Solar System, Pluto has now been reduced to the state of a dwarf planet. This historic demotion took place in 2006 when scientists figured out that it is a Kuiper Belt object. This did invite controversies but as of date we have learned to accept Pluto as a dwarf planet and not a major planet. So, let us today learn interesting facts about this celestial object which, despite its astronomical distance from Earth, has managed to spark a cold war among the scientists of our home orb!
Interesting Pluto Facts: 1-10
1. Hints of Pluto’s existence was first discovered by Percival Lowell, an American astronomer. He observed that Uranus and Neptune have odd orbital deviations, which straight away suggested that there was something beyond Neptune that was exerting a gravitational tug.
2. Lowell went on to predict the location of this unknown object in 1915 but before he could find out the object, he died.
3. 15 years later the object was finally discovered by Clyde Tombaugh using the predictions that were made by Lowell and some other astronomers. He discovered this celestial body from Lowell Observatory.
4. It was not any astronomer or a scientific community that named this celestial body but rather, it was Venetia Burney – a 11-year old girl who suggested the name. Burney suggested to her grandfather that the body should get its name from Roman god of underworld and should be named as Hades. Pluto is actually another name of Hades.
5. Burney’s grandfather passed on the message to Lowell Observatory and the object was named Pluto. Interestingly, the name Pluto also contains the initials of Percival Lowell.
6. Scientists are not very sure about the size of Pluto because of its huge distance from Earth. Scientists guess that it is 2/3rd the width of Earth’s moon or less than 1/5th of Earth’s diameter.
7. Scientists guess that the core of Pluto is rocky and its mantle is made of water ice. As per scientists, the surface of Pluto may be coated with nitrogen frost and methane ice.
8. Hubble Space Telescope found evidences that complex organic molecules may be present on the crust of Pluto. Scientists also guess that beneath the icy crust, frozen methane and nitrogen may also be present.
9. The orbit of Pluto is not at all circular. It is eccentric. This simply means that the object’s orbit often takes it inside Neptune’s orbit and its distance from Sun varies considerably from time to time.
10. When Pluto travels close enough to Sun, the ice on its surface evaporates and forms an atmosphere, which because of low gravity of Pluto, rises very high is space. As Pluto travels away from Sun, the atmosphere freezes but never disappears completely. The frozen atmosphere falls back on its surface as snow. Because Pluto does have an atmosphere, chances of strong winds being present on Pluto is also possible.