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When I was a kid there were 9 planets in the solar system, but much to the sadness of space nerds everywhere, Pluto was downgraded to a dwarf planet. That doesn’t mean that Pluto’s lost its charm though: its still one of the coolest celestial bodies out there. Check it out.
1. Despite being tiny, Pluto actually has five moons, including Charon, Hydra, Nix, Kerberos, and Styx. Each of them is named after an element of the Greek underworld.
2. When Pluto was first discovered, scientists simply called it Planet X. In order to name it, there was a contest and the winner was Venetia Burney, an 11-year-old from Oxford.
3. Pluto is not always the furthest away from the sun. It has an oddly shaped orbit, which means that sometimes it switches places with Neptune. For about 20 years out of each of its orbits, it is the 8th closest.
4. Pluto is one of the coldest places in our solar system. It can hit -382F there thanks to its extreme distance from the sun.
5. There’s some uncertainty about whether Pluto is the largest or second largest dwarf planet in our solar system. Eris is the other contender, but since Pluto’s atmosphere changes drastically during different points in its orbit, it’s hard to get a good measurement.
6. Pluto is actually one-third water, but most of the time it’s in the form of ice.
7. When Pluto gets closer to the sun during its orbit, the ice thaws and it forms a very thin atmosphere.
8. While Venus has the slowest day in the solar system, Pluto’s is pretty long at 6 Earth days.
9. Venus, Uranus, and Pluto all spin in the opposite direction of Earth.
10. Pluto’s largest moon is Charon, which is almost as big as Pluto itself. Some astronomers think it’s actually a double planet.
11. Sunlight takes five hours to reach Pluto, as opposed to the eight minutes it takes to get to Earth.