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Dwarf planets are worlds that are too small to be considered full-fledged planets, but too large to fall into smaller categories.
See the fact file below for more information on the Dwarf Planets or alternatively, you can download our 24-page Dwarf Planets worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
- Dwarf planets are worlds that are too small to be considered full-fledged planets, but too large to fall into smaller categories.
- In our Solar System, five dwarf planets are officially recognized. They are Ceres, Pluto, Haumea, Makemake and Eris. Other dwarf planets are found in the outer solar system while Ceres, in exception, is located in the asteroid belt. Another six objects are almost certainly dwarf planets and there may be as many as 10,000 dwarf planets in the solar system. Of the dwarf planets, only 2 have been visited by space probes, the Ceres and Pluto.
- Dwarf planets are a lot like regular planets. They share many of the same characteristics as planets. The International Astronomical Union’s (IAU) defines a dwarf planet as celestial body that: is being in orbit around the sun; has sufficient mass for self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces; and has not cleared the neighborhood around its orbit.
- Both planets and dwarf planets have enough mass and gravity to be nearly round – unlike odd-shaped asteroids. As mentioned, they both travel through space in a path around the Sun.
- The big difference between a planet and a dwarf planet is:
- A dwarf planet could be in for a bumpy ride as it travels – its path is full of other objects like asteroids.
- A regular planet has a clear path around the sun. Most of those impacts happened billions of years ago, so there’s not much left over to get in the way.
OFFICIALLY CLASSIFIED DWARF PLANETS
- Ceres accounts for one third of the mass in the asteroid belt. Despite this, it is still the earliest known, smallest and least massive of the current category of dwarf planets.
- It is only 590 miles (950 km) in diameter and has a mass of just 0.015 percent that of Earth. It has a surface temperature of -105°C and no moon.
- Sicilian astronomer Giuseppe Piazzi discovered Ceres in January 1801 based on the prediction that the gap between Mars and Jupiter contained a missing planet.
- NASA’s robotic Dawn mission arrived at Ceres in 2015. The mission has shown many interesting features on its surface, ranging from various bright spots to a 4-mile-high (6.5-kilometer-high) mountain.
- Ceres is so small that it is classified as both a dwarf planet and an asteroid, and is often named in scientific literature as one of the largest asteroids in the solar system. Although it makes up approximately a fourth of the mass of the asteroid belt, it is still 14% smaller than Pluto.
- Discovered in February 1930 by Clyde Tombaugh, Pluto is the second closest dwarf planet to the Sun, and was at one point classified as the ninth planet. Pluto is the largest dwarf planet, but only the second biggest, with Eris being the most massive.
- Pluto is the most well known of the dwarf planets. Despite its small size — 0.2 percent the mass of Earth and only 10 percent the mass of Earth’s moon — Pluto’s gravity is enough to capture five moons of its own.
- Pluto has 5 known moons. In order of distance from Pluto, these are Charon, Styx, Nix, Kerberos and Hydra.
- Haumea is the third closest dwarf planet to the Sun and is located beyond the orbit of Neptune. It was discovered in 2004 by a team from Caltech, at the Palomar Observatory in the United States in a project headed by Mike Brown.
- It is unique and at the same time, recognizable because of its ellipsoid (elongated) shape. This makes it the least spherical of all the dwarf planets. The elongated shape of the dwarf planet is due to its rapid rotational spin, not a lack of mass, which is about one-third that of Pluto.
- Haumea has two small satellites (moons) orbiting the planet called Hi’iaka & Namaka. These were discovered by Mike Brown’s team in 2005 through observations using the W.M. Keck Observatory. Moreover, it has a surface temperature of -241°C.
- Haumea and Makemake are the most recently named dwarf planets in the solar system.
- Makemake is the second furthest dwarf planet from the Sun and is the third largest dwarf planet in the solar system. Makemake was discovered on March 31st 2005 and was recognized as a dwarf planet by the IAU in July 2008.
- Makemake was named three years after its discovery. The name comes from the the creator of humanity and god of fertility in the mythos of the Rapa Nui (the native people of Easter Island). The name was partly chosen due to Makemake’s discovery close to Easter.
- As said on Space.com (2017), a moon was discovered around Makemake in April 2016, more than a decade after the dwarf planet itself was found. Its diameter is known to be about two-thirds that of Pluto, and the newly found moon will allow for measurements of its mass.
- Nicknamed MK 2 (designation S/2015 (136472) 1), it is estimated to be 160 km in diameter. Hubble Space Telescope made an observation and it is said that the moon was spotted about 20,000 km from Makemake.
- Satellites offer an easy method to measure an object’s mass, so before the moon’s discovery Makemake’s mass could only be estimated.
- Just like Makemake, Eris was discovered by the team of Mike Brown, Chad Trujillo, and David Rabinowitz on January 5, 2005. The discovery was announced on July 29, 2005. Eris is the furthest dwarf planet from the Sun and has the greatest mass.
- Eris is located beyond the orbit of Neptune and beyond the Kuiper belt in a region known as the “scattered disc”. It is the second largest dwarf planet (very a close second to Pluto) and at one point was considered for the position of the 10th planet.
- It has a mass of 27% larger than that of Pluto and a diameter of approximately 1,400 to 1,500 miles (2,300 to 2,400 km).
- It was the discovery of Eris that prompted the IAU to reconsider the definition of a planet. Further observation went on to suggest that the dwarf planet is slightly smaller than Pluto.
- Eris has one satellite (moon) which is called Dysnomia and takes 16 Earth days to complete a full orbit. Dysnomia is named for the daughter of the goddess Eris in Greek mythology, and is the Greek goddess of lawlessness. Eris and its moon are currently the most distant known natural objects in the entire Solar System.
- As of 2014, Eris’ distance from the Sun is approximately 96.4 astronomical units (AU) which is around 14,062,199,874 km – which is roughly three times the distance of Pluto.
Dwarf Planets Worksheets
This is a fantastic bundle which includes everything you need to know about Dwarf Planets across 24 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use Dwarf Planets worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about the Dwarf planets which are worlds that are too small to be considered full-fledged planets, but too large to fall into smaller categories.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- Dwarf Planets Facts
- Filling Dwarf Boxes
- Review and List Down
- Structure of Pluto
- Latest Update
- Periods of Discovery
- What Do You Think?
- Word Hunt
- Pick What?
- Dwarf Planets vs. Planets
- Wait, There’s More!
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Link will appear as Dwarf Planets Facts & Worksheets: https://kidskonnect.com - KidsKonnect, August 4, 2019
Use With Any Curriculum
These worksheets have been specifically designed for use with any international curriculum. You can use these worksheets as-is, or edit them using Google Slides to make them more specific to your own student ability levels and curriculum standards.