Latest Pluto Stories

2009-06-10 14:38:55

Championing the modern-day use of solar eclipses to solve a set of modern problems is the goal of a review article written by Jay Pasachoff, visiting associate at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and Field Memorial Professor of Astronomy at Williams College. The review is the cover story of the June 11 issue of Nature, as part of its coverage of the International Year of Astronomy. Pasachoff's review article describes the history of eclipse discoveries, as well as current...

2009-05-11 12:01:05

Venetia Phair, who earned scientific notoriety at the age of 11 by suggesting the name Pluto for a newly discovered planet, has died in Britain, her son says. Phair's son, Patrick, confirmed his mother, who was born Venetia Burney, died of unspecified causes April 30 at the age of 90 in the British town of Banstead, The New York Times said Monday. Phair recounted in the film documentary, Naming Pluto, how she suggested the planetary name to her grandfather, retired Bodleian Library librarian...

2009-03-02 11:48:22

Using ESO's Very Large Telescope, astronomers have gained valuable new insights about the atmosphere of the dwarf planet Pluto. The scientists found unexpectedly large amounts of methane in the atmosphere, and also discovered that the atmosphere is hotter than the surface by about 40 degrees, although it still only reaches a frigid minus 180 degrees Celsius. These properties of Pluto's atmosphere may be due to the presence of pure methane patches or of a methane-rich layer covering the dwarf...

2009-02-09 13:40:00

MESSENGER reaches its orbital perihelion today and passes within 0.31 astronomical units (AU) of the Sun (one AU is nearly 150 million kilometers or 93 million miles). The mission's imaging team is taking advantage of the probe's proximity to the fiery sphere to continue their search for vulcanoids "“ small, rocky asteroids that have been postulated to circle the Sun in stable orbits inside the orbit of Mercury. Vulcanoids are named after Vulcan, a planet once proposed to explain...

2008-10-03 10:00:00

When a treasure hunt comes up empty-handed, the hunters are understandably disappointed. But when astronomers don't find what they are looking for, the defeat can provide as much information as a successful search. The search in question, the Taiwanese-American Occultation Survey (TAOS), spent two years periodically photographing portions of the sky to look for small chunks of rock and ice orbiting beyond Neptune, in a region of the solar system called the Kuiper Belt. The survey targeted...

2008-09-19 17:02:55

Pluto and its dwarf planet brethren have a new friend. The International Astronomical Union (IAU) announced the name of a new dwarf planet to join the existing four in the solar system. The object previously known as 2003 EL61 is now named Haumea, after the goddess of childbirth and fertility in Hawaiian mythology. The name was decided by members of the International Astronomical Union's Committee on Small Body Nomenclature and the IAU Working Group for Planetary System...

2008-08-21 17:26:37

A huge comet-like object has been spotted inside the orbit of Neptune. The object, at least 30 miles wide, is on the return leg of a 22,500-year journey around the sun, astronomers announced today. Catalogued as 2006 SQ372, the interloper is just over two billion miles (3.2 billion km) from Earth, though its elongated trek takes it to a distance of 150 billion miles (241 billion km), or nearly 1,600 times the distance from the Earth to the sun. The only known object with a...

2008-08-19 08:30:00

According to researchers, a newly discovered "minor planet" may help explain how comets are created. The new object, dubbed 2006 SQ372, is starting the outward portion of its elongated 22,500 year orbit, leaving it nearly 150 billion miles from the Sun at its farthest point. On Monday, researchers said the icy object was over 2 billion miles from Earth, slightly closer than the planet Neptune.  The researchers' findings will be published in the Astrophysical Journal. According to...

2008-07-21 10:00:00

According to the International Astronomical Union, a dwarf planet beyond Neptune has been given the name Makemake, and has been designated the third plutoid in the solar system. The red, methane-covered Makemake, formerly known as "Easterbunny" or 2005 FY9, is named after the Polynesian god of fertility and creator of humanity. Last month the International Astronomical Union, which names heavenly bodies, created a new rank of sub-planets called plutoids. The other two plutoids are Eris, and...

2008-06-20 16:40:40

NEW YORK -- Pluto was once a planet. Then, a dwarf planet. And as of last week, a plutoid. The fall from grace has teachers, parents and educational publishers struggling to keep up, while kids remain loyal to their favorite, the ninth planet. Underscore planet. Last week, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) announced Pluto should now be called a "plutoid," two years after the organization voted to demote Pluto to "dwarf planet" status. Meanwhile, many kids are nearly...

Latest Pluto Reference Libraries

2004-10-19 04:45:42

Planet -- A planet is a body of considerable mass that orbits a star and that doesn't produce energy through nuclear fusion. Until recently, only nine were known (all of them in our own Solar system). As of the end of 2002 over 100 are known, with all of the new discoveries being extrasolar planets. Astronomers often call asteroids minor planets, and call the larger planetary bodies (those which are commonly called planets) major planets. Planets within the solar system can be...

2004-10-19 04:45:41

Asteroid -- An asteroid, also called a minor planet or planetoid, is a member of a group of small, planet-like bodies that are part of our solar system. They are believed to be remnants of the interstellar clouds, nebula, that were not incorporated into planets during the formation of the solar system. The largest asteroid in the inner solar system is Ceres with a diameter of 1003 km. It also was the first to be discovered, by Giuseppe Piazzi on January 1, 1801. Nowadays, over 9000...

2004-10-19 04:45:41

Quaoar -- Quaoar ("kwah-oh-ahr", /kwA o Ar/) is a Trans-Neptunian object circling the Sun in the Kuiper belt, discovered in 2002 by astronomers Chad Trujillo and Mike Brown at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, California. Quaoar is estimated to have a diameter of about 1,280 kilometres, which would make it the largest Solar System object discovered since Pluto and, indeed, the largest known minor planet. Larger than all the asteroids put together, it is about one...

2004-10-19 04:45:41

Kuiper Belt -- The Kuiper belt is an area of the solar system extending outwards from the orbit of Neptune (at 30 AU) to 50 AU. The largest of the objects in the Kuiper belt are the planet Pluto and its moon Charon. A new Kuiper belt object, currently called 2001 KX76, has been found that is about the size of Charon, and larger than Ceres. Another such object, Quaoar, discovered in 2002, is half the size of Pluto. Other known Kuiper belt objects are progressively smaller. The exact...

2004-10-19 04:45:41

Planet Charon -- Charon is the only known satellite of Pluto. Charon was discovered by astronomer James Christy in 1978 using photographic plates which showed a bulge moving around Pluto. Christy named it after the Greek mythological figure Charon but pronounced it differently. The "ch" at the beginning of the moon's name is soft so it sounds like "Sharon," after the astronomer's wife Charlene, nicknamed Char, which both have soft ch sounds. The mythological figure's name is...

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  • The ragged surface of a lava-flow.
'Malpais' translates from Spanish as 'bad land.'