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Pluto, once considered the ninth and most distant planet from the sun, is now the largest known dwarf planet in the solar system. It is also one of the largest known members of the Kuiper Belt.
See the fact file below for more information on the Pluto or alternatively, you can download our 25-page Pluto worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
- Clyde Tombaugh discovered Pluto on February 18, 1930. It was originally considered to be the ninth planet from the Sun.
- But, named as “Planet X,” it was already discovered and observed in 1909, by Percival Lowell, who founded Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona, in 1909.
- The name Pluto, after the god of the underworld, was proposed by Venetia Burney, an eleven-year-old schoolgirl in Oxford, England.
- From 1992 onwards, many bodies were discovered orbiting in the same volume as Pluto, showing that Pluto is part of a population of objects called the Kuiper belt.
- As it slowly orbits the sun, astronomers soon discovered it has five moons. That’s a lot for a small planet compared to earth!
- With a radius of 715 miles (1,151 kilometers), Pluto is about 1/6 the width of Earth.
- From an average distance of 3.7 billion miles (5.9 billion kilometers), Pluto is 39 astronomical units away from the sun.
- Observing the sun while on Pluto at noon, would be about 300 times as bright as our full moon.
- It takes Pluto 248 years to orbit the sun once. The oval-shaped orbit can take it as far as 49.3 astronomical units (AU) from the sun.
- One day on Pluto lasts about 153 hours. Its axis of rotation is tilted 57 degrees with respect to the plane of its orbit around the sun, so it spins almost on its side.
- Its rotation is similar to Venus and Uranus – east to west.
FROM EARTH TO PLUTO
- From 1930, it took 85 years before man could finally see what Pluto looks like close up.
- Since Pluto is so far from Earth, little was known about its size or surface conditions until 2015, when NASA’s New Horizons space probe made a close flyby of Pluto.
- New Horizons is the fastest spacecraft ever launched – hurtling through the Pluto system at more than 30,000 mph.
- Its near 10-year, three-billion-mile journey to Pluto required a strong build that took 15 years just so it could survive space.
- The Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) aboard NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft took the first detailed and colored picture of Pluto on July 13, 2015.
- The spacecraft was 476,000 miles (768,000 kilometers) from the surface.
THE REAL TIME FACE
- New Horizons spacecraft revealed that its mountains can reach as high as 11,000 feet (3,500 meters), comparable to the Rocky Mountains on Earth.
- The temperature on Pluto can be as cold as -375 to -400 degrees Fahrenheit (-226 to -240 degrees Celsius).
- It has long troughs and valleys as long as 370 miles (600 kilometers).
- Pluto has a thin, tenuous atmosphere containing molecular nitrogen, though molecules of methane and carbon monoxide have also been detected.
- It also possesses ice ridge terrain that appears to look like a snakeskin; estimated at 1,650 feet (500 m) tall.
- In the center left of Tombaugh Regio is a very smooth region unofficially known by the New Horizons team as “Sputnik Planum,” after Earth’s first artificial satellite, Sputnik.
- In the 1990’s astronomers discovered that Pluto wasn’t a planet orbiting out there all by itself, it was actually one body in the Kuiper Belt.
- The International Astronomical Union (IAU) downgraded the status of Pluto to that of a dwarf planet because it did not meet the three criteria the IAU uses to define a full-sized planet:
- It is in orbit around the Sun.
- It has sufficient mass to assume hydrostatic equilibrium (a nearly round shape).
- It has “cleared the neighborhood” around its orbit.
- Pluto meets only two of these criteria. It has not managed to stir away other bodies of comparable size other than its own satellites or in its vicinity in space.
- Hence, on August 10, 2006 it was officially downgraded to a dwarf planet, much to the chagrin of some people.
LIFE IN PLUTO
- The surface of Pluto is extremely cold, so life could not exist. At such cold temperatures, water, which is vital for life, is rock-like.
- Not only does water freeze solidly at these temperatures, but other liquids and gases that are present on Pluto’s surface – such as methane (CH4), nitrogen gas (N²), and carbon monoxide (CO) – also freeze solid.
- Pluto’s interior is warmer; however, it may be too difficult to survive in a very harsh environment.
- Its surface pressure ranges from 6.5 to 24 bar (0.65 to 2.4 Pa), which is roughly one million to 100,000 times less than Earth’s atmospheric pressure.
- It has a thin atmosphere, consisting mainly of nitrogen gas, methane, and carbon monoxide.
This is a fantastic bundle which includes everything you need to know about Pluto across 25 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use Pluto worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about the Pluto, once considered the ninth and most distant planet from the sun, which is now the largest known dwarf planet in the solar system. It is also one of the largest known members of the Kuiper Belt.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- Centuries-long Orbit
- God of the Underworld
- Five Moons
- The 85-Year Journey
- Kuiper Neighbors
- Beyond Horizon
- Mapping Pluto
- Planetary Qualities
- The Dwarf Planet
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Link will appear as Pluto Facts & Worksheets: https://kidskonnect.com - KidsKonnect, October 30, 2018
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.