sábado, 27 de agosto de 2016

Pluto, 10 facts you should know about the former planet

Nowadays, we have already found there are more than eight planets. Mercury, Venus, the Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune and Pluto.  However, Pluto was once considered out of this list for being viewed as a dwarf planet by the astronomers. Last year, New Horizons reached Pluto and took new measurements and found out new things that can help scientists understand this planet better. Now, ten facts you should know about this planet that still remain as a mysterious object in our solar system.

1.      Baptizing while having breakfast: Pluto was discovered in 1930, since then there had been endless discussions regarding the name of that planet. Nobody was able to nail it. But one day, a girl whose name was Venetia Burney, a 11 year-old girl, was having breakfast with her family just like all kids do in the morning in England. She had been learning about the planets and their distances from the sun. She had also been reading upon Greek mythology, so we can say this girl was learned enough as to name anything. During breakfast time, she was then in company with her family when she tossed the name around: “Pluto could be a good name for the planet”. After this remark, her grandfather went to one of his best friend’s place, (Herbert Hall Turner , a professor of astronomy at the University of Oxford) and talked to him about the suggested name. Then, Turner telegraphed a message to the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff stating Pluto could be considered as a potential name for the planet. Once the name was let known and suggested, they loved it and that was how Pluto was baptized.

The name was also taken because they it was Percival Lowell’s initials.

2.       Weird Small world: Pluto is the smallest planet of the Solar system. Even smaller than Mercury. There are other moons which are larger than Pluto. They are: Ganymede, Titan, Callisto, Io, Europa, Triton, and our Moon. Nonetheless, it was believed that Pluto was much smaller but recent researches revealed that it is smaller than Earth’s moon but larger than previously thought based on the new measurements taken by New Horizon, a probe sent into space in 2006.

People think  this has been the reason why Pluto was downgraded to a dwarf planet. Contrary to this belief, Pluto was downgraded to a dwarf planet for being considered a member of the Kuiper belt

3.       Not the last all the time. Due to the eccentricity of its orbit, Pluto passes to be the eighth planet of the solar system for twenty years out of its 248 year- orbit around the Sun, meaning that during 20 years, Pluto reaches its closes distance from the Sun. Neptune becomes the ninth planet for this period of time. Therefore, whenever you read a book that assumes Pluto is the ninth planet.

4.       Pluto was named after the god of the Underworld, Charon. Pluto is not alone indeed. Charon, its companion and its massive moon, was named after the ferryman who carries the dead souls across the river Styx. Its other moons are Nix, Styx, Hydra and Kerberos. Pluto and Charon form a binary system due to Charon’s size which makes it possible.

5.       A satellite or a planet? : This question regarding Pluto has been around in forums for many years. In fact, the planet is believed to be one of the Neptune’s moons which escaped and made its own orbit. Additionally to this, it is known that Pluto’s orbit is unpredictable. The scientific community has managed to calculate its orbit for the next 10 or 20 million years, but not beyond that limit.

6.       Too cold. 5 hours to see the sunlight in that odd world. Nevertheless, Pluto sometimes has its atmosphere. This phenomenon happens when the dwarf planet is at its closest relative distance from the Sun thawing its atmosphere which is basically formed by nitrogen, methane and carbon monoxide.

         Clyde Tombaugh into space: he was the scientist who discovered this planet. He died in 1997, two years before the New Horizon’s launch. His final request was that of his ashes being sent into space. His ashes are now travelling on board of the probe New Horizon on its way to the asteroid Kuiper belt that is a disc-shaped zone beyond Neptune’s orbit populated by tiny icy objects.

8.       Rock as Rocky. Pluto seems to have a rocky core, as per some studies and researches. It is believed to be composed of a rocky core, a mantle of water ice and a surface covered with methane ice and frosty nitrogen. However, owing to the distance, it has been hard to ascertain what exactly comprises Pluto.

9.       Pluto is retrograde. Its rotation is retrograde, it means, it rotates from east to west just like the planets Venus and Uranus. It completes one rotation in a period of time of six Earth days. There are also extreme variations in its seasons because of its tilt.

10.   Pluto is red, not grey. Pluto turned out to be red, like his brother Mars. Charon, its main moon is grey instead. This is a sign that both objects are composed of different materials.

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