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Physical Characteristics - Essay Example

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Summary to essay on topic "Physical Characteristics"
Pluto is a dwarf planet that revolves a long way from the sun. The area of its orbit, known as the Kuiper Belt, comprises of similar icy and dusty bodies called Kuiper Belt Objects (KBO's). After its discovery in 1930, Pluto was considered to be the ninth planet of the solar system…
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Physical Characteristics
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Download file "Physical Characteristics" to see previous pages... All scientists do not unanimously accept the latest IAU launched definition of a planet that changed the status of Pluto. They continue to view Pluto as the ninth planet. (Spinrad, 2004), (Stern, 2007)
Kuiper Belt is an unexplored region of the solar system that extends from just outside the orbit of Neptune to quite a distance from the orbit of Pluto.
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It is similar to the asteroid belt in that it consists chiefly of small bodies and one known dwarf planet, Pluto. But while the asteroid belt is made up of metal and hard rock, the Kuiper Belt is composed mainly of frozen objects made up of dust and ice, called KBO's. They vary in size from small clumps of ice and dust to large bodies like the Pluto. It is the revolution of these objects that determines the disc-shaped structure of the Kuiper Belt. If their orbits are interrupted in order to bring them into the inner solar system, they can be seen as comets which turn into gas and dust when they get too near to the sun. (Stern, 2007)
During the year 1905, an American astronomer named Percival Lowell, observed that some kind of gravitational force seemed to be disturbing the revolutions of Uranus and Neptune. In 1915, he postulated the existence of another planet beyond Neptune and started his research from his Arizona observatory. Unfortunately, he found his death in 1916 before he could discover Pluto.

But his works were carried on by the Lowell Observatory staff, and in 1929, Clyde W. Tombaugh, an assistant at the observatory, took pictures of the part of the sky that was in question with a very powerful wide-angled telescope. The next year he discovered Pluto on three of the photographs. (Spinrad, 2004)
However, the newly discovered planet seemed to be quite small to cause interruptions in the orbits of Uranus and Neptune. So, the calculations of Percival Lowell were rechecked by the later astronomers, and were found to be inaccurate confirming no disturbances in the orbits of Uranus and Neptune. Hence, discovery of Pluto was just luck through hard work. Later, in 1978, the U.S naval observatory at Flagstaff observed discovered a moon orbiting Pluto very closely, and named it Charon. (Stern, 2007)
In 1951, Gerard Kuiper, a renowned Dutch American astronomer, predicted the presence of the Kuiper Belt. He and his colleagues expected that a belt composed of frozen volatile material might exist beyond the orbit of Neptune, just like the rocky asteroid belt lying between mars and Jupiter. Although the first few searches were unsuccessful, introduction of the charge-coupled device (CCD) in the late 1980's opened up a new gateway to space research. These devices were a lot more efficient in absorbing light than the obsolete photographic technology, allowing them to capture extremely dim objects. Thence in 1992, two astronomers, Jane Luu and David Jewitt, discovered the first Kuiper Belt Object, 1992QB1. (Stern, 2007)
Physical Characteristics:
Size and Orbit
Pluto is approximately 39 times as far from the sun as the earth that is a distance of about 5.9 billion kilometers. It has an approximate diameter of 1,400 miles, which is about two-thirds the size of earth's moon and less than a fifth of the earth itself. (Spinrad, 2004)
It takes about 248 earth years to complete a full revolution around the sun, while it takes 6 earth days for a full rotation around its axis. As its orbit is elliptical in shape as ...Download file "Physical Characteristics" to see next pagesRead More
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