NASA’s unmanned “New Horizons” spacecraft reached the dwarf planet Pluto for its long-awaited flyby last week so we learned some brand new info for this planet that we weren’t known before. Read here these 8 interesting facts about Pluto.
- Its size is 2,370 kilometers (1,473 miles) in diameter, give or take 20 kilometers. This makes it the largest dwarf planet, and the undisputed King of the Kuiper Belt.
- It’s challenging to describe the terrain of Pluto because it’s a complex, diverse world with distinct regions. It has a polar cap of methane and nitrogen ice, with more methane unevenly distributed across its surface. The darkest regions have yet to be explored in detail, but are already bearing the names of dark gods.
- In all the close-up images released so far of the Tombaugh Regio, we haven’t seen a single crater.
- Current theories are that Pluto has an unexpected heat source, stored heat, or is more efficient at using heat.
- In terms of specific terrain, there was found a mountain range, Norgay Montes, equal to the Rockies here on Earth, and vast weirdly textured plains, the Sputnik Planum. The rugged mountains are made of hard ice, possibly water ice which approximates the strength at rock at Pluto’s frigid temperatures.
- Pluto has an ionized tail like a comet, produced by nitrogen from its atmosphere leaking into the solar wind. The rate of escape is staggering: it’s possible 450,000 kilograms (500 tons) of gas are escaping the little world into space every hour.
- Pluto’s craters could be named after Star Trek characters. Craters on the surface of Pluto are likely signs of deep impact from smaller space rocks colliding with the planet. Researchers may name some of these craters after characters from Star Trek.
- Dark spots have been noticed on Pluto’s surface. What’s strange about these irregularities is their similar size and spacing.