Dwarf Planets

 

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Dwarf planets are like the solar system's eight planets, but smaller. They orbit the sun but are not moons. Today, scientists have classified 5 dwarf planets including Pluto, which was originally the ninth planet until 2006.

Pluto was discovered in 1930 by an American astronomer. It is so far away that astronomers can hardly see it, even with the most powerful telescopes.

Pluto is only 2,200 km in diameter, even smaller than our moon. It revolves around the sun once every 248 years. Sometimes Pluto crosses the path of Neptune and for about 20 years Neptune is farther from the sun than Pluto.

 

Surface of Pluto

This is what the surface of Pluto may look like - Pluto (Artist’s Impression) L. Calçada

 

When it gets nearer to the sun, Pluto has more of an atmosphere. The frozen gas melts a bit and even clouds sometimes form. When it moves away from the sun again the atmosphere freezes and falls back to the surface.

The gravity on Pluto is only about 8 % of the gravity on Earth. If you weigh 70 kg on earth, you would weigh only about 5 kg on Pluto. It is very, very cold and the sun can only be seen as a very tiny spot. Temperatures can go down to - 240° C. Pluto's only moon , Charon, is almost the size of Pluto itself.

Ceres is a dwarf planet between Mars and Jupiter, in the asteroid belt. It has a rocky surface with no atmosphere. Ceres was the first asteroid that was discovered.

Eris is even larger than Pluto. It orbits the sun at a distance of almost 15 billion kilometers. Like Pluto Eris has a surface made up of methane ice.

 

 

Related Topics

 

Words

  • asteroid = one of the many small planets that move around the sun; especially between Mars and Jupiter
  • astronomer = a person who studies the stars and the sky
  • billion = a thousand million
  • diameter = a line from one end of a circle to the other
  • discover = to find something new
  • distance =the space between two objects
  • freeze = to change from water to ice
  • gravity = the power that pulls you down to the surface of a planet
  • including = also
  • melt = to turn from ice to water
  • methane = a gas that you cannot see or smell; when you burn it it gives off heat
  • orbit = to go around an object
  • path = track, route
  • revolve =to go around
  • rocky = not smooth; rough; not flat
  • scientist = a person trained in science
  • spot = place, area
  • telescope = an instrument that makes small, faraway objects look bigger
  • tiny = very small
  • weigh = how heavy you are