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A trip across the Solar System: Pluto

Pluto in an image taken by the New Horizons space probePluto was once known as the ninth planet of the Solar System—the smallest and most distant planet. Then, in 2006, astronomers agreed it should be called a “dwarf planet”. This was because many objects similar to, or even bigger than, Pluto had been recently discovered in the outer Solar System. Thanks to images sent back by the New Horizons space probe in 2015, astronomers have found out a lot about Pluto.



An animation of Pluto's orbit. In this "view from above", note how Pluto's orbit (shown in red) is less circular than that of the...Read More >>An animation of Pluto's orbit. In this "view from above", note how Pluto's orbit (shown in red) is less circular than that of the other planets. Plutio is also sometimes closer to the Sun than Neptune, the planet nearest it.

Orbit

Pluto has an highly elliptical orbit. This means it is has a stretched-out oval shape. For 20 of the 248 years it takes to orbit the Sun, it lies inside the orbit of Neptune. Pluto's orbit is also tilted at an angle to those of the other planets, which all lie roughly on the same plane.

The name Pluto was proposed by Venetia Burney, an 11-year-old schoolgirl from Oxford, England. She received £5 as a reward.

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