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12/03/2021 05:44:50 pm

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Are You Ready For NASA’s Pluto Flyby? 5 Facts About Distant Dwarf Planet

Pluto

(Photo : Getty Images/Handout) NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft will gather information about the mysterious dwarf planet, Pluto.

There are so many questions left unanswered that surround the solar system. And while it presents a vast "scientific wonderland," limited knowledge creates unprecedented dangers for exploration. But now, NASA's New Horizons spacecraft will gather information about the mysterious dwarf planet, Pluto.

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Are you ready for NASA's Pluto flyby? Well, excitement is now escalating as the probe is making its closest approach to the dwarf planet on July 16. While we're practically learning more about Pluto every day, the flyby will give us more detailed and far-superior images of this diminutive member of the solar system, The Sydney Morning Herald reported.

As its surface features are starting to be unveiled, Pluto proves to be one of the most interesting celestial objects. And as we are about to understand its atmosphere, its moons and how it fits into the story of the solar system's history, here are 5 interesting facts about this distant dwarf planet.

1. Pluto was discovered in 1930 by an American astronomer. It was named after the Greek god of the underworld by an 11-year-old schoolgirl from Oxford, England, Venetia Burney, Space Facts revealed. Its name also honors Percival Lowell, who first caught hints of Pluto's existence in 1905 and whose initials are the first two letters of Pluto.

2. Pluto was once known as the smallest planet in the solar system and the ninth and most distant planet from the Sun. However, in 2006, it was reclassified as a dwarf planet. According to Space.com, its reclassification has sparked incessant controversy and debate in scientific communities for the last 8 years.

3. Pluto has an atmosphere, Universe Today noted. Though the planet is a tiny world, it does have a very tenuous atmosphere called an "exosphere." Its atmospheric composition is mostly made up of nitrogen and methane, and it freezes when Pluto is furthest from the Sun. And just two weeks before NASA's New Horizons scheduled flyby, it detected frozen methane, a substance scientists had long suspected to exist, The Christian Science Monitor said.

4. Pluto has five known moons, Nine Planets has learned. These are Charon (discovered in 1978), Hydra and Nix (both discovered in 2005), Kerberos originally P4 (discovered 2011) and Styx originally P5 (discovered 2012). However, Pluto is smaller than a number of moons including Ganymede, Titan, Callisto, Io, Europa, Triton, and the Earth's moon. Pluto has 66 percent of the diameter of the Earth's moon and 18 percent of its mass.

5. No space aircraft has ever visited Pluto. But this is about to change as NASA's New Horizons spacecraft is scheduled to fly by the dwarf planet on its way to the Kuiper Belt on July 14, as per CBS News.

With the New Horizons spacecraft is nearing Pluto, other celestial objects in orbit around it may be discovered as well. Who knows, it may uncover some unexpected yet interesting things.  

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