5 Things to Know About Pluto

Next time you end up on a lengthy airplane ride think about the New Horizons probe. After a journey requiring 9 years of travel time covering 3 billion miles, the probe will finally reach its goal of surveying the mysterious planet Pluto.

The next three days — July 13-15 — offer NASA  scientists an opportunity to scan this icy little world — along with its moon Charon — as New Horizons whizzes past at more than 30,000 mph.


Pluto and Charon
Pluto (right) and its largest moon, Charon.

Five things to know about Pluto:

1. After much debate and speculation, scientists have confirmed that Pluto is 1,473 miles in diameter making it the largest object beyond Neptune.

2. In August 2006, astronomers stripped Pluto of its planetary status. With its size now determined, it might rank once again among Sol’s orbiting elite.  As it stands now, Pluto is referred to as a “dwarf” planet, “planetoid” or “plutoid”. The below graphic will require some updating now…

Objects Beyond Neptune

3. Charon isn’t the only moon committed to Pluto. Hyrda, Nix, Kerberos and Styx all orbit the world. Nix is 20 miles around while Hydra is 30 miles in diameter. Kerberos and Styx might be measured as the probe passes through the system, but for now, they are too small.

4. According to NASA data, surface temps on Pluto range from 375 to 400 below zero. The coldest recorded temperature on earth is 126 below zero.

5. Pluto’s orbit loops above and below the normal orbital plain.

Pluto's Orbit Path