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It is important to know at any age!
In a mysterious region beyond the orbit of the beautiful, banded, blue ice-giant planet Neptune--the most distant of the eight major planets from our Sun--there is a dark and frigid domain called the Kuiper Belt. Within this remote region, where our Sun shines with only a weak fire, and appears to be merely a particularly large star suspended in the black sky, a multitude of strange, icy worldlets tumble around our Star. Pluto, a large icy denizen inhabiting the Kuiper Belt, was originally classified as the ninth major planet from our Sun after its discovery in 1930. However, with the realization that this frozen "oddball" is really only one of several large, icy inhabitants of the Kuiper Belt, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) found it necessary to formally define "planet" in 2006--and poor Pluto was unceremoniously ousted from the pantheon of major planets. Pluto, now freshly reclassified as a dwarf planet, nonetheless remains a small world of great interest, debate, and affection. Scientists will soon learn much more about this beloved, distant, ice-ball so far away, when, after a treacherous nine-year journey of three million miles through interplanetary space, NASA's hearty New Horizons spacecraft arrives at Pluto on July 14, 2015.
and here is another
Pluto itself is a relatively large denizen of the distant Kuiper Belt, that orbits our Sun in the frigid company of a vast multitude of other bewitching and mysterious icy objects. Like other Kuiper Belt Objects (KBOs), Pluto is thought to be composed primarily of ice and rock. It is an intriguing frozen "oddball", a mere 1/6 the mass of Earth's own Moon and 1/3 its volume. Pluto also has a highly inclined, eccentric orbit that carries it from 30 to 49 Astronomical Units (AU) from our Sun. One AU is equal to the mean Earth-Sun separation of 93,000,000 miles. As a result, Pluto periodically moves towards our Sun at a distance that is closer to our Star than Neptune. Very fortunately for both Neptune and Pluto, an orbital resonance with Neptune prevents the duo from crashing into each other.
"Pluto will continue to surprise us when New Horizons flies past it in July (2015). Our work with Hubble just gives us a foretaste of what's in store," Dr. Showalter commented to the press on June 3, 2015.
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"We've found a likely solution to the long-standing problem of how Triton arrived in its peculiar orbit. In addition, this mechanism introduces a new pathway for the capture of satellites by planets that may be relevant to other objects in the Solar System," explained Dr. Craig Agnor, a researcher from the University of California, Santa Cruz, in the May 10, 2006 issue of Time Magazine.
Titan possesses a smooth, young surface, scarred by comparatively few impact craters. The climate of this frigid moon--including its fierce winds and showers of hydrocarbon rain--carves out surface features that bear an eerie resemblance to those on Earth, such as lakes, sand dunes, rivers, seas, and deltas. Indeed, planetary scientists propose that Titan bears a haunting resemblance to Earth, and is believed to be similar to the way our planet was before life had a chance to evolve out of non-living substances (prebiotic).
Mars was born a few million years after the formation of our Solar System, while Earth took much longer. If Venus formed on a timeline similar to that of Mars, then that would be a "huge puzzle" since Venus and Earth are so similar in terms of mass and orbit," Dr. Jacobson explained in the April 2, 2014 National Geographic News.