All about Pluto

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Back in 2005 Nasa sent a spacecraft called New Horizons out into space. It didn't have any astronauts aboard, just lots of instruments to record information. New Horizons has taken nearly ten years to reach Pluto! Now it has started sending messages back to Earth with loads of info about this exciting 'dwarf' planet.

Pluto was only discovered in 1930. A man called Clyde Tombaugh was looking through a telescope and saw it for the very first time. Imagine finding a whole new planet!

The New Horizons spaceship has travelled three billion miles to reach Pluto on 14 July 2015. It didn't stop for a visit. It went straight past on a 'flyby', capturing images and measurements.

Stephen Hawking sent his congratulations to the team at Nasa. "We explore because we are human and we want to know. I hope that Pluto will help us on that journey," he said.

Pluto has got larger!

It turns out that Pluto is much bigger than scientists thought! It's about two-thirds the size of the Earth's moon. That means it has about the same surface area as Russia.

Pluto is astoundingly amazing!

A scientist called Jeffrey Moore, working on the New Horizons project, said, "The landscape is just astoundingly amazing." Those scientists have been blown away by the pictures of Pluto! It turns out to have flowing ice, smooth craters, mountains and hills. The surface is orange in places, just like Tangy Florida Sunny-D!

Pluto and Star Trek

Did you know the craters on Pluto might be named Vader, Skywalker and Leia?

It's true. Scientists want to call Pluto's craters Vader, Skywalker and Leia, all characters from Star Trek. Charon, the largest of Pluto's moons, has a dark spot that may be called Mordor. That's from Lord of the Rings. The names still have to be approved by the International Astronomical Union (IAU).

More Pluto Fun Facts

Pluto was the Roman God of the underworld. An 11-year-old girl in Britain called Venetia Burney came up with the name.

One year on Pluto - the time it takes for Pluto to go round the sun - is the same as 248 ½ years here on Earth! And one day on Pluto takes about seven Earth days.

Pluton has five moons, unlike Earth that has just one.

It is very very very cold on Pluto! Most of the surface is covered in ice. The shades of red and orange on the surface come from the chemicals in the ice. Another really important discovery is that Pluto has an atmosphere, like Earth.

Officially Pluto is a 'dwarf' planet. Yes, once it was a planet but not any more. That's because it's smaller than many of the other objects in its orbit around the sun. There's even another dwarf planet that is bigger than Pluto, called Eris, discovered in 2005.

New Horizons will go on sending back images and measurements to Nasa for months to come.

Why not visit Nasa's website and find out more about Pluto

https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/newhorizons/main/index.html

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