Pluto is a rocky, icy ball-shaped object far, far away in Space – sometimes as many as 4.7 billion miles from Earth! It’s smaller than Earth’s Moon and so far away that we didn’t know it was there until 1930.
When I was a little girl, people thought Pluto was a planet, like Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune – the other planets in our Solar System. But when scientists studied Pluto to learn more about it, they realised it isn’t quite like the other planets.
So let’s find out more about Pluto and whether it is a real planet or not…
Pluto measures 1,473 miles across its middle and is super-cold because it is so far away from the Sun. As far as we know, it is made of ice and rock and has mountains on its surface, some of which are as high as mountains here on Earth. And Pluto has five moons, called Charon, Styx, Nix, Kerberos and Hydra.
Pluto orbits (or travels around) the Sun just like Earth and the other seven planets in our Solar System. Because it is so very far away, it takes Pluto about 248 Earth years to make one journey all the way around the Sun!
Pluto is like the other planets in our Solar System because it orbits the Sun and is a ball-shaped object in Space. But it is much smaller than the other planets and isn’t strong enough to affect other objects in Space like the bigger planets can. And it is definitely not a moon for another planet.
So, what is Pluto? Is it a planet or not?
At a special meeting in 2006, a group of important space scientists decided that Pluto is a special kind of Space object called a ‘dwarf planet’. Here’s an explanation of why.
In case you were wondering, the name ‘Pluto’ comes from Roman mythology. Pluto was the god of the underworld, where the ancient Romans believed heroes went after they died. Pluto was suggested as a name for this far-away dwarf planet by a little girl who lived in Oxford, England – and scientists at the time liked it so much that they agreed! And the names of Pluto’s moons come from ancient myths, too.