Until July 2015, Pluto has always remained somewhat of a mystery to astronomers. And while there is still much to learn, the first proper photographs of our solar-system’s dwarf planet have told us a lot.
Guides looks at 10 facts about our furthest family member.
It was 24-year old Clyde Tombaugh, a research assistant, who first stumbled across Pluto in 1936. While predictions about its existence had been suggested some 20 years earlier, Tombaugh was the first to confirm it was indeed out there.
An 11-year old girl called Venetia Burney suggested the name “Pluto” to her grandfather, choosing it as “Pluto” was the name of the Roman God of the Underworld. Referencing Pluto’s distance from Earth.
Pluto is 2,370km in diameter. This makes it smaller than our Moon – which is just over 3,379km wide. More accurately, it is 18.5 per cent the size of Earth.
It has been long-since believed that Pluto was a cold and dark ice-world. The new images disprove this theory. In fact it closer resembles Mars, with a red, dusty surface.
5. Mickey Mouse’s dog
Mickey Mouse’s trusty dog made his debut the same year as Pluto was discovered. To cash-in on the find, Walt Disney named the dog after the planet – no, it wasn’t the other way around.
6. The probe
The probe which is beaming the images back to us is called New Horizons. It is, in actual fact, only the size of a grand piano, and took nine years to get there.
It’s hard to comprehend, but New Horizons has traveled over 3-billion miles to reach Pluto, travelling at 50,000kp/h.
It takes three hours for a photo to travel from New Horizons back to Earth.
Pluto was actually downgraded from a regular planet in 2006 – the same year New Horizons launched. It was downgraded because it was considered the largest object in the Kuiper Belt, making it a space body, rather than a planet.
For the softies, Pluto seems to be happy to finally have had it’s photo taken. So much so that it is showing off a massive love-heart.