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Matthew Berkowitz SciencePLUTO11-9-99 Pluto is the farthest planet from the Sun usually and by far the smallest Pluto is smaller than seven of the solar systems moons the Moon Io Europa Ganymede Callisto Titan and Triton Orbit 5913520000 km 395 AU from the Sun average Diameter 2274 km Mass 127e22 kg In Roman mythology Pluto Greek Hades is the god of the underworld The planet received this name after many other suggestions perhaps because its so far from the Sun that it is in perpetual darkness and perhaps because PL are the initials of Percival Lowell Pluto was discovered in 1930 by a fortunate accident Calculations which later turned out to be in error had predicted a planet beyond Neptune based on the motions of Uranus and Neptune Not knowing of the error Clyde W Tombaugh at Lowell Observatory in Arizona did a very careful sky survey which turned up Pluto anyway After the discovery of Pluto it was quickly determined that Pluto was too small to account for the discrepancies in the orbits of the other planets The search for Planet X continued but nothing was found Nor is it likely that it ever will be the discrepancies vanish if the mass of Neptune determined from the Voyager 2 encounter with Neptune is used There is no tenth planet Pluto is the only planet that has not been visited by a spacecraft Even the Hubble Space Telescope can resolve only the largest features on its surface Fortunately Pluto has a satellite Charon By good fortune Charon was discovered in 1978 just before its orbital plane moved edge-on toward the inner solar system It was therefore possible to observe many transits of Pluto over Charon and vice versa By carefully calculating which portions of which body would be covered at what times and watching brightness
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