Pluto was demoted from planet to dwarf planet in 2006. The International Astronomical Union had to either change Pluto’s status as a planet or add many more planets, so Pluto was placed in a different category. Children could learn more at: Pluto.
Voyager I was launched in 1977. It approached Jupiter in 1979 and Saturn in 1980. It continues to explore deep space and send back data. Traveling at a maximum speed of 38,000 miles per hour, Voyager I has traveled far beyond Pluto’s orbit. Children can learn more at: http://voyager.jpl.nasa.gov/.
New Horizons was launched in 2006 to fly by Pluto and its moons. The unmanned spacecraft flew closest to Pluto on July 14, 2015. The craft will also study Pluto’s five moons: Charon, Nix, Hydra, Styx, and Kerberos. After its work around Pluto is done, it may investigate the Kuiper Belt. Children could learn a great deal more at: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/newhorizons/main/index.html
Pluto was discovered in 1930 by Clyde W. Tombaugh. As far back as 1905, Percival Lowell felt that an unknown planet was influencing the orbits of Neptune and Uranus. However, he died without finding the planet. Tombaugh used Lowell’s work to predict the location and was successful in 1930. Pluto’s day is about six earth days, and its year is about 248 earth years. The average temperature is about -342 degrees to -369 degrees Fahrenheit. Pluto is named after the ancient god of the underworld. Pluto was demoted from planetary status on August 24, 2006, by the International Astronomical Union. Children can learn more at: Pluto.
New Horizons spacecraft was closest to Pluto in 2015. Launched on January 18, 2006, the spacecraft traveled three billion miles to achieve one of its goals, taking images of Pluto and Pluto’s five moons. When New Horizons was launched, George W. Bush was President, Pluto was still a planet, and Apple had not yet released its first iPhone. New Horizons, traveling at a rate of over 30,000 miles per hour, will continue on its journey and will hopefully help us learn more about the Kuiper Belt. Children can learn more at: New Horizons.