On Tuesday, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft will sweep past Pluto and present the previously unexplored world in all its icy glory.
New Horizons has traveled 3 billion miles over 9½ years to get to this historic point. The fastest spacecraft ever launched, it carries the most powerful suite of science instruments ever sent on a scouting and reconnaissance mission of a new, unfamiliar world.
Pluto may once more be a planet! It was once classified as the ninth planet but was reclassified to being a ‘dwarf planet’ in 2006. when the IAU formalised the definition of a ‘planet’. But will they rethink this after the recent spectacular flyby?
Pluto is the second closest dwarf planet, to the Sun and is the second most massive dwarf planet (Eris is the largest dwarf planet).
Pluto is about two thirds the size of Earth’s moon and 18% of its mass.
There are at least 5 known moons orbiting Pluto: Charon, discovered in 1978, Hydra and Nix, both discovered in 2005, Kerberos originally P4 discovered 2011 and Styx originally P5 discovered 2012 .
The latest discovery of NASA’s New Horizons mission reveals that Pluto is host to flowing ice that have similarities to glaciers on active worlds such as Earth and Mars.
No spacecraft had ever visited Pluto until New Horizons, which was launched in 2006 to fly by Pluto on its way to the Kuiper Belt, mission now completed.
There are many new images of Pluto now, which are revealing amazing facts after this most recent visit by New Horizons.