New Horizons, NASA’s spacecraft sent to take detailed images of Pluto, has finally settled the debate on what the actual size of Pluto is.
According to scientists Pluto is around 1,473 miles (2,370 kilometers) in diameter, bringing light to centuries of debates around the actual size of the planet. This gives the dwarf planet a size of roughly 18.5% of the Earth’s diameter making it one of largest planets past Neptune in our solar system. Pluto’s largest moon, Charon, is roughly 8.5% of the size of the Earth, 751 miles (1208 km kilometers) across.
Also of interest were the four new smaller moons discovered by the Horizons team named Nix, Hydra, Styx and Kereberos.
New Horizons was launched in January 2006 to complete a close flyby of the dwarf today. Its overall missing is to view the makeup of icy dwarfs such as Pluto within the cold Kuiper Belt at the edge of our solar system. We are particularly interested in how they have evolved over time to gain more insight into how solar systems are formed.
The New Horizons probe is currently approaching the planet at 30,800 miles per hour in what is considered to be a historic fly-by. According to NASA, “The National Academy of Sciences has ranked the exploration of the Kuiper Belt – including Pluto – of the highest priority for solar system exploration.”
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