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Introductory text to the dwarf planet Pluto

Pluto is a dwarf planet in the Kuiper Belt, an asteroid-rich region, behind Neptune's orbit. By 2006, Pluto was considered the ninth and outermost planet in the solar system before being denied status by the International Astronomical Union (IAU). Pluto is named after the Roman god of the underworld. Compared to the other planets, apart from the also very late discovered planets Uranus and Neptune, Pluto did not owe its name to the Romans, but to the Lowell Observatory, which first discovered the celestial body in 1930.
The sun's light takes six hours to hit Pluto. This enormous distance is one of the reasons why the mean average temperature is -230 ° C. The planetary surface is in the ratio of 7: 3 of rock and ice. Carbon monoxide, nitrogen and methane make up the atmosphere.
With a diameter of 2300km, Pluto is less tall than the Earth's Moon. The picture on the left shows the size comparison between Earth and Pluto. One turn around the sun takes 248 years. At 4.72 km / s, Pluto moves slower than any of the eight planets in the solar system. However, this is not a special feature, as with increasing distance to the sun and the web speed decreases. Next Ceres, Eris, Haumea and makemake Pluto is one of the five recognized dwarf planets.

Pluto's moons

Five moons encircle Pluto: Charon, Nothing, Hydra, Kerberos and Styx, All names are borrowed figures from Greek mythology.
By far the largest moon Charon was discovered in 1978, the other four only in the last 10 years, since their diameters are relatively small. Between Pluto and Charon there is a so far uniquely observed peculiarity. Both objects orbit each other in a double-bound rotation. So they always show the same surface side. Between earth and moon there is only one bound rotation. We always see the same side of the moon. But if you look from the moon to the earth, you can - with appropriate waiting time - examine both halves of the planet.

moonorigin of namediameterdiscovery year
StyxRiver goddess as well as river of the underworld15 km2012
KerberosHellhound of the Underworld20 km2011
Nothingnamed after the goddess of night Nyx35 km2005
HydraMonster with serpent heads40 km2005
CharonFerryman who brings the dead to the underworld1200 km1978

Planet or no planet?

Is Pluto a planet, or is not it a planet? The International Astronomical Union (IAU) has published a definition to determine whether a celestial body is a planet or not. But beware, this only applies to corresponding objects in our known solar system. The definition does not refer to constellations in other planetary systems. There are basically three requirements:
A planet has to ...
... orbiting the sun
... have so much mass that the self-gravity rounds the planet
... cleaned his orbit from other bodies
The IAU received harsh criticism for this definition because, strictly speaking, the Earth would also lose its status as a planet. Your orbit is not cleansed from other bodies. Thousands of more or less large objects are located in the orbital zone of the earth. For this purpose, the so-called planetary discriminant introduced. It describes the absolute ratio of the mass of the planet and the objects in its orbital zone. If, in the orbital zone of an object, the summed mass of the smaller objects is greater than the mass of the object itself, then it is a dwarf planet. Values ​​below 1 indicate a dwarf planet. Values ​​above 1 indicate a planet.

objectPlanetary Discriminantstatus
makemake0,02dwarf planet
Haumea0,02dwarf planet
Pluto0,077dwarf planet
Eris0,10dwarf planet
Ceres0,33dwarf planet
Neptune24.0008. Planet
Uranus29.0007th planet
Mercury91.0001st planet
Mars180.0004th planet
Saturn190.0006th planet
Jupiter625.0005th planet
Venus1.350.0002nd planet
earth1.700.0003rd planet

The discussion about Pluto's planetary status is far from over. The above definition is the view of the International Astronomical Union (IAU), whose view is not shared by all astronomers. The 'rehabilitation' of Pluto is regularly argued in professional circles. If one decides to eventually take Pluto back into the select circle of planets, that would also affect the other dwarf planets. The inclusion of Ceres and Eris would then require a more intensive discussion.

The space probe 'New Horizons'

2006 launched the NASA spacecraft New Horizons with the ambitious goal of Pluto, who was still considered a planet at that time. The takeoff weight was almost half a ton, of which only 1/6 fuel. Through a successful swing-by-maneuver on the gravitational field of Jupiter, the speed of the spacecraft could be increased. Large amounts of fuel could thus be saved and are available for future missions. To this day, it is the only Pluto mission. After more than nine years of flying, the probe reached its provisional destination on July 14, 2015, when it flew past Pluto 12,000 km away.

The objectives of the mission were initially to determine the exact mapping of Pluto and its moon Charon, as well as the study of the atmosphere and geological structure of the dwarf planet. After this New Horizons could meet these goals, the probe flies further on the edge of the solar system through the Kuiper Belt. If the probe remains functional, recordings can be sent back to Earth by the year 2026, possibly even longer.


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