Pluto Information For Kids

Read on for some kid-friendly facts about Pluto the smallest, coldest, lonliest planet in our Solar System.

There are nine planets in our Solar System. Some of them are large, like Jupiter or Saturn. Others are medium-sized, like our own Earth. And one planet is the smallest planet: Pluto. Here are some interesting facts about this lonely little planet on the edge of our Solar System.

-- How Far Away Is Pluto? --

Pluto is very far away. It averages about 3.5 billion miles from the Sun, and about 3.4 billion miles from Earth. Pluto is so far away that scientists here on Earth have trouble seeing it, even with our best telescopes--we didn't even find it until 1930! If we tried to fly there, even our fastest spaceships would take more than 600 years to reach Pluto.

-- What is Pluto Like? --

Even if we could reach Pluto, it might not be worth the trip. Pluto is small, cold, and lifeless. It is a giant ball of ice and rock floating so far from the Sun that almost none of the Sun's heat reaches it. The surface of Pluto is made entirely of ice, and the surface temperature remains below -350 degrees Fahrenheit! That's cold!

Pluto is also dark. Because it is so far from the Sun, it does not get all the light that we get here on Earth. Even during the day, the sky of Pluto is as dark as nighttime on Earth. From Pluto's surface, the Sun looks like a very bright star.

-- Could We Live On Pluto? --

While we may visit Pluto one day, it is unlikely that we will ever live there. Because of its size, Pluto has very low gravity and a very thin atmosphere. The atmosphere is full of nitrogen and carbon monoxide, gasses which we humans cannot breather. Without a good atmosphere, especially one with lots of oxygen, no Earth life could live on Pluto's surface.

In addition, Pluto is so cold that we would need amazingly powerful heaters, not to mention a good supply of warm blankets, if we ever hoped to live there. Even Pluto's warmest days are almost three times colder than the coldest days on Earth!



-- Does Pluto Have Any Moons? --

Pluto has one moon that we know of. It is called Charon, and it is half the size of Pluto. Charon is just as cold and lifeless as Pluto. Charon is so small that we could not even see it until 1978, when we developed better telescopes.

There may be other moons, but we have yet to see them. If they exist, these moons must be very small.

-- Is Pluto the Farthest Planet? --

Sometimes. In fact, most of the time! But sometimes, Pluto and another planet, Neptune, cross paths, like two trains on crossed tracks. Once every 248 years, for about 20 years, Neptune is further away from the Sun than Pluto. Then the two planets cross paths again, and Pluto becomes the farthest planet once more. The last time this happened was in 1979, and it lasted until 1999. Pluto and Neptune won't cross paths again until the year 2247, which is almost 250 years from now.

-- Why Do We Call It Pluto? --

Like every planet in our solar system, we have named Pluto after a mythological god. In the religion of the ancient Romans, Pluto was a god who ruled the underworld. Pluto's moon, Charon, is named after the mythological person who brought people to the underworld.

The name Pluto also recalls the initials of scientist Percival Lowell, who predicted Pluto's existence twenty years before it was actually discovered. Lowell didn't call it Pluto, however; when he made his prediction, he called it "Planet X."

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