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NASA's Mission Pluto
Jul 18, 2015

NASA's New Horizons space probe swept past Dwarf Planet Pluto on 14 July. The spacecraft send some interesting pictures. After examining them scientists announced that the New Horizons spacecraft has nailed the size of the faraway icy world. 

Key Findings

  • Measurements by the spacecraft indicated that the diameter of the dwarf planet is 2,370 kilometers, (+-19 kilometers). That's about 80 kilometers bigger than previous estimates in the low range.

  • Pluto has a lower density than thought, which could mean an icier and less rocky interior.

  • New Horizons' 4.8 billion-kilometer, 9½-year journey from Cape Canaveral, Florida, culminated when the spacecraft zoomed within 12,500 kilometers of Pluto at 49,900 kmph. 

  • Discovered in 1930, Pluto is the last planet in our solar system to be explored. It was a full-fledged planet when New Horizons rocketed away in 2006, only to become demoted to dwarf-planet status later that year.

  • New Horizons had earlier beamed back the best-ever images of Pluto and its big moon Charon on the far fringes of the solar system.  

  • The New Horizons spacecraft is the size of a baby grand piano with a salad bowl—the dish antenna—on top. 

Pluto is the largest object in the so-called Kuiper Belt, considered the third zone of the solar system after the inner rocky planets and outer gaseous ones. This unknown territory is a shooting gallery of comets and other small bodies; every time one of these wayward objects smack one of Pluto's five known moons, the ejected material ends up in orbit around Pluto.


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