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AstronomySolar system



Pluto is an orbiting dwarf planet that orbits in the outer part of the solar system, in the so-called Kuiper belt.
Pluto was discovered by Clyde Tombaugh in 1930, and was considered the ninth planet in the solar system for 76 years.
However, its status as a planet was called into question in 1992 following the detection of several similarly sized objects in the Kuiper Belt; the discovery of Eris in 2005, a diffuse disk dwarf planet that is 27% more massive than Pluto, finally led the International Astronomical Union to reconsider – after heated debate – the definition of a planet and thus reclassify Pluto as a dwarf planet on August 24, 2006. This decision was made primarily due to its small size and eccentric orbit.
Pluto is the sixteenth in size and the seventeenth in mass among the celestial bodies of the solar system, while in diameter it is the largest of the known dwarf planets and trans-Neptunian objects (in both categories it is surpassed in mass by Eris).
It also has a mass and size smaller than those of the major natural satellites of the solar system: the Medici satellites of Jupiter, Titan, Triton and the Moon. Compared to the latter in particular, its mass is one sixth and its volume one third. Like other Kuiper Belt objects, Pluto is composed mostly of ice and rock.

Astronomical Observation –
Observing Pluto, the dwarf planet farthest from the Sun in our solar system, can be a challenge due to its great distance and relatively small size. In general, however, Pluto can also be observed using an amateur telescope but with high characteristics, at least 200-300 mm aperture and in favorable meteorological observation conditions.
Below, we provide some information on the astronomical observation of Pluto.
Pluto orbits the Sun in a very elliptical and distant orbit. Its location can vary greatly over the years. Of course, it can only be visible through a telescope, as its apparent magnitude is too faint to be seen with the naked eye.
To observe Pluto, as mentioned, you need a telescope of adequate size and a good dark sky. Given Pluto’s relatively small size and dim brightness, it is best to use a telescope with good resolution.
Pluto’s visibility depends on its orbital position and solar illumination. It is often most visible when it is at opposition, that is, when it is in the opposite part of the sky from the Sun, making observation possible throughout the night.
To locate Pluto, you need to know its celestial coordinates (right ascension and declination) at any given time. This information can be obtained from astronomical software, almanacs or websites dedicated to astronomy.
Furthermore, to capture images of Pluto, you can use a CCD camera suitable for astrophotography. However, detailed photography of Pluto often requires the use of larger telescopes and specialized instruments.
Attending astronomical events, such as Pluto’s oppositions, can provide an ideal opportunity for observation, as at these times the dwarf planet will be closest to Earth and brightest.
Let’s remember, however, that observing Pluto can be challenging and requires specific equipment. Astronomy enthusiasts often engage in these observations, collaborating and sharing information through online communities and astronomical associations.

Physical characteristics –
Pluto is smaller than the planets in the solar system. Its average diameter is approximately 2,377 kilometers.
Pluto is believed to be composed mostly of rocks and ice. Its surface is covered with a layer of nitrogen ice, water ice, methane ice and other volatile substances.
Pluto has a thin atmosphere composed mostly of nitrogen, with traces of methane and carbon monoxide. However, due to its low gravity and its distance from the Sun, the atmosphere is extremely tenuous.
Pluto has an orbit that is eccentric and inclined to the plane of the ecliptic, which is the average orbit of the planets in the solar system. An eccentric orbit means that Pluto’s distance from the Sun varies greatly throughout its orbit. Pluto’s orbital period, the time it takes to complete one orbit around the Sun, is about 248 Earth years.
Pluto has five known natural satellites, the largest of which are Charon, Nix and Hydra.
Pluto’s surface is characterized by plains, mountains and ice-covered regions.

Space missions –
NASA has already conducted a successful mission, the New Horizons mission, which provided detailed information on Pluto in July 2015. The probe performed a close flyby of Pluto and its satellites, sending valuable images and scientific data on the history, composition and atmosphere of Pluto.
In the future, new space missions may be proposed to further explore Pluto or other trans-Neptunian objects.

Guido Bissanti

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