Pluto viewed by the New Horizons spacecraft on July 12, 2015


Image Credit: Wikipedia

Pluto was kicked out of the solar system!

Gee, I’m getting the collywobbles, because Pluto was kicked out of the solar system! We’ve been told for years that it was a planet and now it is considered somewhat of an ice ball! What? What about this Pluto-not-a-planet claim? Is Pluto a planet or not?

Now science has given us the old switcheroo and Pluto is a dwarf planet. I get it. Well, jumping Plutopalooza! Why don’t we gaze at the measurements?

New Horizons Heads for Pluto

New Horizons is a fancy space probe that was launched as part of the NASA New Frontiers program.

LAUNCH: The space probe New Horizons lifted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., on January 19, 2006.
WEBSITE: New Horizons New Horizon’s phone home has passed!
NASA TV: NASA Television Spacecraft Status Report Media Briefing

From NASA:

NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft has launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida aboard a fast-moving Atlas V rocket. as it headed for a distant rendezvous with the mysterious planet Pluto almost a decade from now. The third time was the charm for New Horizons. Two consecutive launch attempts earlier in that week were foiled by high winds at the launch site and a power outage at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md., which operates the spacecraft while the mission is underway.

Notice that NASA called Pluto a planet…

Pluto, the god of the underworld

“The name Pluto, after the god of the underworld, was proposed by Venetia Burney, a then eleven-year-old schoolgirl in Oxford, England, who was interested in classical mythology.”

“On February 18, 1930, after nearly a year of searching, Tombaugh discovered a possible moving object on photographic plates taken on 23 and 29 January of that year. A lesser-quality photograph taken on January 21 helped confirm the movement.After the observatory obtained further confirmatory photographs, news of the discovery was telegraphed to the Harvard College Observatory on March 13, 1930.”

“Planet X” was officially named on March 24, 1930.

Tracking Space Weather

VIDEO: Space Weather for New Horizons

A few months before New Horizons was due to reach Pluto, a community of scientists came together to determine just what kind of a environment the mission would experience during its historic flyby. While the simulations aren’t 100% conclusive, this first ever attempt to characterize space weather conditions so far from our own home opens the door to better protecting our spacecraft – and eventually humans — as we continue to explore the solar system and beyond.

Pluto Status

Discovered by: Clyde W. Tombaugh
Discovery date: February 18, 1930
Minor planet category: Dwarf planet