Pluto Is Having Its Secrets Revealed

by blackspanielgallery

Pluto has a way of getting into the spotlight, and now we are finally getting to know something about it. New Horizons is making Pluto reveal its secrets.

Pluto is so far away that New Horizons, the space craft to finally get to it, had to speed faster than any space craft before it, and it still took years to get to Pluto. Before this mission images were fuzzy, with even the Hubble Space Telescope unable to produce enough pixels to show any detail whatsoever. All we knew is that it had bright and dark areas, and a moon, Charon, that was large compared to Pluto itself. There are also two smaller moons known to exist. This picture is now changing, coming into a much better focus.

The early reports indicate large ice structures, not likely water ice, with cracks and cliffs. Another surprise is that Pluto is being reported as slightly larger than it was initially thought to be.

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Why the Need to Get There so Fast?

Pluto has an elongated orbit, and when it is closest to the sun a small atmosphere forms as the ice on its surface vaporizes its top layer.  This atmosphere disappears when Pluto goes deeper into space.  Since Pluto has a period for its orbit well over two hundred Earth years long, the opportunity to study its atmosphere is temporary, and will soon disappear.  The discussion of the atmosphere, and is soon to be disappearance is found on the DVD the Universe, which is the season one of the television series.  It is in the episode that goes into small bodies.



A NASA Video

Why is Pluto Not a Planet Any More?

When Pluto lost its planet status it was one of four bodies up for consideration.  Charon, its largest moon, was up for planet, since it is so large compared to Pluto, not because it is the largest moon out there.   Other moons are larger than Charon.  Also, Ceres was up to return to planet status.  Ceres is the largest asteroid, and was a planet until it lost its status in the nineteenth century.   The fourth object up was Eris, a Kuiper Belt object slightly larger than Pluto that also has a moon.


Not up was Sedna, a distant planet sized object that could cause future refinement of the definition of planet had the four candidates made it to planet status.


Planet Criteria

To be a planet an object must orbit the sun, and sweep its orbit.  Since Ceres us in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, and Pluto, Charon, and Eris are Kuiper Belt objects, at least part time for Pluto and Charon, as they pass space debris moves through their orbits so frequently that they do not effectively sweep their orbits.   They move in crowded areas of the solar system.


Of added concern regarding Pluto was it is not really in the same plane as the rest of the planets.  Its orbit is noticeably inclined with respect to the rest of the solar system.


Other Large Kuiper Belt Objects

Mike Brown has been involved in hunting for large Kuiper Belt objects, and has had a number of successes.  Had Pluto retained its planet status several other dwarf planets would have to be given consideration.  Pluto is the first Kuiper Belt object of such size as to bring about the question of what is a planet, but the list of objects that would have had to be considered is continuing to grow.


The Kuiper Belt is an area around the inner solar system, and the inner part of the solar system is where the planets are found.  The Kuiper Belt is filled with rocky, icy objects, and the home from which many comets come, and to which they often return, as they orbit the sun.


Pluto, Eris, and the Dwarf Planets of the Outer Solar System

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What Is Sedna?


Farther out than even the Kuiper Belt is the Ort Cloud.  Unlike the Kuiper Belt, which is like a ring around the inner solar system, the Ort Cloud encompasses the solar system in all directions.  Sedna is an Ort Cloud object.  Just like Pluto leaves the Kuiper Belt for a part of its orbit, Sedna leaves the Ort Cloud for part of its orbit and comes into the Kuiper Belt.  Because it is now in the Kuiper Belt it is close enough to have been detected, as per Mike Brown in a video on Dwarf Planets.



Updated: 07/17/2015, blackspanielgallery
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blackspanielgallery on 07/23/2015

As a scientist I do not see any credibility on astrology, so I must go with the astronomy decision. Some scientists still want Pluto to be a planet, but in reality most thing it is not significant either way.

DerdriuMarriner on 07/23/2015

blackspanielgallery, Unlike astronomers, astrologists are not happy with the downsizing of Pluto from planet to dwarf!

blackspanielgallery on 07/22/2015

They waited so many years And so much could have gone wrong, but didn't.

CruiseReady on 07/22/2015

It was really cool to see the reaction of the folks at NASA when they started getting the pictures.

blackspanielgallery on 07/19/2015

As a scientist I can say what it is called is not important.

jptanabe on 07/19/2015

Seems a pity that Pluto had to lose its status as a "real" planet. But it's exciting that New Horizons was already on course to investigate it, so now we can learn a lot more about it - a dwarf planet is still worth knowing about!

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