Pluto

In July 2015, NASA's New Horizons spacecraft sent home the first close-up pictures of Pluto and its moons.

Now classified as a dwarf planet, Pluto was known as the 9th planet in the solar system until 2006.

In July 2015, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft sent home the first close-up pictures of Pluto and its moons. Click on the picture to watch a video of what it would be like to fly over Pluto.

Image credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute/Lunar and Planetary Institute

Pluto factfile 
Position from the sundwarf planet beyond Neptune
Diameter 2,300 km
Distance from sun5,900,000,000 km
Day length 153 hours
Year length 248 years
Number of moons5
Surface temperature-232 °C
Gravity0.66 m/s2
AtmosphereNitrogen, methane, carbon monoxide
FUN FACT: Pluto’s biggest moon Charon orbits at exactly the same speed as Pluto rotates. It stays above exactly the same spot on the surface all the time. Scientists call this tidal locking.
Pluto and Charon are shown in enhanced color in this image, which is the highest-resolution color image of the pair so far returned to Earth by New Horizons. It was taken at 06:49 UT on July 14, 2015, five hours before Pluto closest approach, from a range of 250,000 kilometers
Pluto and Charon shown in enhanced colours.
Image Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute
This is the clearest view yet of the distant planet Pluto and its moon, Charon, as revealed by the Hubble Space Telescope (HST). The image was taken by the European Space Agency's Faint Object Camera (FOC) on February 21, 1994 when the planet was 2.6 billion miles (4.4 billion kilometers) from Earth; or nearly 30 times the separation between Earth and the sun.
Pluto and Charon photographed by the Hubble Space Telescope, from Earth orbit, in 1994.
Image Credits: Dr. R. Albrecht, ESA/ESO Space Telescope European Coordinating Facility; NASA
What would it be like to land on Pluto?
Image Credit:
NASA/ Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/ Southwest Research Institute

Activity

The furthest reaches of the solar system hold some amazing objects – at Pluto and beyond is the Kuiper belt of billions of large icy objects.

Only the New Horizons mission has travelled to explore the Kuiper Belt. Two Voyager missions, and two Pioneer missions went that far out, but they were launched before the Kuiper Belt was discovered. They sent back useful data about the region, but New Horizons was designed specifically to investigate it.

There are plenty of options for what else to investigate at the farthest frontier of the solar system. Plan a new space probe mission to go beyond Neptune and investigate some of these distant objects in the Kuiper Belt. You will need to do some research to decide which objects you want to learn more about, and what kind of sampling and testing your probe will do. Include a map showing where your probe will travel on the way out there.


You can go to the previous secret pages by clicking the planets below.

The MoonVenusMercury
Moon landing sites for Apollo missions
The SunMarsAsteroids
An image of the Sun in 2018 when it had no sunspots.
JupiterSaturnUranus
Hubble Views of JupiterQuadruple Saturn moon transit snapped by HubbleThis is an image of the planet Uranus taken by the spacecraft Voyager 2 in 1986.
Neptune
Neptune showing it's storms, the great spot and scooter