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
|Position from the sun||dwarf planet beyond Neptune|
|Distance from sun||5,900,000,000 km|
|Day length||153 hours|
|Year length||248 years|
|Number of moons||5|
|Surface temperature||-232 °C|
|Atmosphere||Nitrogen, methane, carbon monoxide|
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 could start by looking at the NASA webpage about the Kuiper belt
- And the New Horizons mission pages
- And maybe Wikipedia.
You can go to the previous secret pages by clicking the planets below.