PLUTO and the KUIPER BELT are our final stop in our journey through the solar system.
Pluto used to be a planet but is now classified as a dwarf planet. It was reclassified when astronomers had found dwarf planets in the Kuiper belt with similar size to Pluto. It has a rocky core surrounded by a water/ice mantle. Since Pluto has an elliptical orbit, when it gets closer to the Sun, the surface ice sublimates (changes from a solid directly to a gas) and rises from the atmosphere. Once it moves away from the Sun, the gas water then freezes again and it is believed that it falls back to the surface as snow. It has 5 moons in total, and its largest one Charon is very close in size to Pluto. Sometimes they are thought of as a double dwarf planet system.
The Kuiper belt is a disc shaped region beyond Neptune. It is populated with hundreds of thousands of icy bodies. Pluto is the best known of the group of larger objects. The objects are called Kuiper Belt Objects (KBOs) or transneptunian objects, and were discovered in 1992. The search for KBOs began in 1987. It was named after Gerard Kuiper who proposed (back in 1951) that icy bodies might lie beyond Neptune.
Similar to Neptune, it has also been calculated that there might be another planet in our solar system way beyond the orbit of the Kuiper belt. This planet has been nicknamed “Planet Nine” but in no way has been discovered yet, it has just been proposed! HERE is a link from NASA explaining this hypothetical Planet Nine.
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