10.7 million kilometers per hour Pluto's orbit is travelling at a glacial rate of 10.7 thousand miles per hour. This means that it will take Pluto 4.6 years to circle the Sun once.
Pluto's orbit is not fixed: instead, it changes over time due to GRAVITY from the Sun and the planets. Over long periods of time (millions of years), this gravity causes Pluto to be "dragged" away from the Sun and toward Neptune, where it will eventually be torn apart by the planet's gravitational force.
However, because of its proximity to the Sun, Pluto experiences a much stronger gravity near perihelion (the point in its orbit when it is closest to the Sun) than out-of-perihelion. This increased pull of gravity causes Pluto to speed up and then slow down as it moves closer and farther from the Sun, respectively.
Thus, the speed of Pluto increases and decreases over time. The average speed of Pluto across its orbit is 10.7 million kilometers per hour, but at its fastest it travels about 17 million km/hr and at its slowest about 3 million km/hr.
Pluto, at 39.2 astronomical units, is awfully out there. This equates to 5.9 billion kilometers. If you could drive your automobile from the Sun to Pluto at motorway speeds, it would take you more than 6,000 years to make the journey. But here's the truly incredible part. No human has ever driven a vehicle on Earth or anywhere else in the solar system.
It isn't that people haven't tried. In 1997, NASA scientists reported that they had found evidence of vehicles on Mars. They said that they believed that the tracks were made by all-terrain vehicles used for mining purposes. However, no one really knows since the report was not confirmed by any other scientist.
In July 2005, the New Horizons spacecraft was launched on its historic mission to study Pluto and its environment. The mission is scheduled for completion in 2015.
People have always wanted to know how far away various planets are from Earth. With modern technology, this can be done very accurately. So, how close is Pluto? It's about 446 million km from Earth. That's more than half way across the sunlit side of Jupiter.
Now try to keep up with this brain teaser...
If you drove straight through a red light until you hit Pluto, it would take you more than 6,000 years to get there.
Pluto completes one circle around the Sun every 248 Earth years. Its orbital path is not in the same plane as the other eight planets, but is inclined at a 17-degree inclination. Its orbit is likewise more oval, or elliptical, than the planets'. It is less than three quarters of the way from the Sun to the Neptune, and about 940 million miles (1.5 billion kilometers) from the Sun.
Pluto's orbit is interesting because it is considered a planet, but it does not go around the Sun like the others do. Instead, it orbits outside of all the other planets except for Uranus. This means that Pluto travels through space around the Solar System every 12 years or so.
Also worth mentioning is that Pluto is considered a dwarf planet by many scientists. Dwarf planets are objects that are left over after the formation of planets. They aren't large enough to be called their own solar system, but they are big enough to be called rocks. The four major planets in our Solar System (Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars) can't be seen with the naked eye, but there are many other smaller objects in orbit around the Sun that we can see with the naked eye. These include Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune.
It travels only 12,200 miles around Pluto (19,640 kilometers). Our moon, by comparison, is 20 times further away from Earth. Pluto and Charon are referred described as "two planets" by some. Charon's orbit around Pluto lasts 153 hours, which is the same amount of time it takes Pluto to complete one spin. The average distance between Earth and the sun is 93 million miles (150 million km). Venus orbits the sun every 87 days, while Mars requires 225 days to orbit the planet. Jupiter is about 584 million miles from Earth, while Neptune is 944 million miles away.
Pluto was originally considered to be a star when it was discovered in 1930. It was not until five years later that American astronomer Clyde Tombaugh decided to look through his photographs for another object. In 1995, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) designated Pluto a dwarf planet.
Dwarf planets are objects that are too small or light to be classified as a planet. However, they play an important role in shaping the environment where they reside. Dwarf planets include Ceres, Eris, Makemake, Montuak, Orpheus, Psyche, Sedna, and Teafa. Of these, only four - Ceres, Pluto, Eris, and Makemake - are still considered to be part of the Solar System. The other five are either frozen bodies or part of other solar systems.
Ceres is the largest asteroid in the Solar System.
Parameters of orbit
|Aphelion (106 km)||7304.326||48.023|
|Synodic period (days)||366.73||–|
|Mean orbital velocity (km/s)||4.67||0.157|
|Max. orbital velocity (km/s)||6.10||0|
It would be impossible to walk over Pluto's surface without soaring up into the air with every step. Mercury is the nearest planet to the Sun, circling at a distance of only 57.9 million kilometers, whereas Pluto circles at a distance of 5.9 billion kilometers. That's more than twice as far away!
Pluto was originally considered to be a star until it was discovered by William Herschel in 1807. Today, we know that Pluto is a dwarf planet and not a star because it does not generate enough heat to be visible with the naked eye.
The closest approach that Pluto makes to the Earth is about 485,000 km (300,000 miles). So you could say that we are part of Pluto's orbit, but we travel so fast that we can't feel its influence on our day-to-day lives.
Even though Pluto is mostly made of ice, it has an atmosphere of gases such as nitrogen and carbon dioxide. The pressure at the surface of Pluto is about 0.15 MPa (200 Pa), which is similar to that inside a gas tank when it is half full.
The temperature varies between -240 and +60 degrees Celsius (-292 and 146 degrees Fahrenheit). As I mentioned, Pluto is not able to sustain life as we know it due to the extreme temperatures and the absence of water.