Pluto is one of the farthest things from Earth in our solar system. It is indeed so far that it takes almost 248 years to complete one orbit around the Sun. The late time the Pluto was at the same exact place the French Revolution hasn’t happen. BTW Pluto is a geologically dead planet. The reach of the sunlight is so low that it is covered in miles of layers of ice.
New Horizons was launched on the 19th of January, 2006. 

Pluto in most Detailed Form

For any celestial body to a planet, it has to follow these rules:

  • It must orbit a star (in our case it’s our Sun)
  • It must be big enough to have enough gravity to force it into a spherical shape. 
  • It must be big enough that gravity cleared away any other objects of similar size near its orbit around the Sun.


Pluto was discovered by Clyde Tombaugh on 18th February 1930 at the Lowell Observatory Arizona. He first theoretically calculated the existence of a ninth planet then went on to search for it with his telescope. Initially, like any discoverer, he did not have any success for a long time like a decade or so. Then on the 18th of February, he discovered our ninth planet through a technic of photographic plates combined with a blink microscope. People didn’t believe his finding at first but later on, it was confirmed by many other astronomers.


The orbital plane in which the planet orbits around the Sun is not the same as the rest of the planets, it follows an uneven path and the path is highly un elliptical in nature. The pluto doesn’t have Sun in the middle of its orbit rather it the Sun is towards the left side in the orbit of Pluto.

Pluto is surrounded by a lot of noise in its area meaning the planet falls in the space where there are lots of celestial irregular-sized bodies surrounding it, some are even big than Pluto itself. So if Pluto is considered a planet then why not every other object which is larger than Pluto or even similar to the planet. The decision to put down Pluto as a planet was taken after these findings and to an extent, in my opinion, it is a good decision because the finding of Pluto was only a piece of the puzzle that needed to be solved and it was very early in the process of it. 

Kuiper Belt in Perspective

In reality, Pluto is smaller than our own Moon, but as a matter of fact, it has its own Moons and to our surprise, they are 5 in number. Although they are very irregular in shape and size. They revolve around Pluto as well as an imaginary point in itself, all these movements are done while revolving around their axis.

Mass of Pluto= 0.0021 Mass of Earth, Diameter of Pluto= 2,390 Km whereas Diameter of Earth= 12,800

Strange Movements of the Moons of Pluto

One of the moons named Charon is half the size of Pluto in terms of diameter, making it big enough to have an adverse effect on the planet. It is so big in fact that they both revolve around a common point rather than Charon revolving around Pluto. 

They are named as:-
1. Charon
2. Nix
3. Hydra
4. Kerberos
5. Styx


The primary aim of the mission was to take pictures of Pluto. New Horizons was the only mission that was sent to Pluto. It took 9 years to complete and was the fastest aircraft traveling through space. It only took 9 hours to pass the Moon (@30,000 Mph) as compared to the 8-day return journey of Apollo 11. The mission allowed to fly the spacecraft within 8,000 miles of Pluto’s surface, almost 30 times than the moon is to Earth.
But it was very sad to see that Pluto was dropped to be called a planet during the start of the mission but it was all worth it in the end.

New Horizons Spacecraft

Reality struck the team when the spacecraft was only 10 days from Pluto. The team at NASA lost communication with the spacecraft, this has never happened in 9 years. It turns out they had overworked the main computer on the spacecraft and caused it to reset. Six months of programming are lost and they had a limited time frame to redo everything. Fortunately, they did everything they just had 4 hours to spare. What chaos it would have been, unimaginable.

Ashes of the one who discovered Pluto have been sent on the new horizons mission, making him the farthest traveling person in history.

Due to many obvious restrictions, the spacecraft only has a 1Kbps transmitting rate for all the data. That’s why to date it has not sent all the data (about 20% to 25% data still remains on the probe) to Earth because of these 3 reasons:-
1. It took many pictures.
2. Each picture is of large size as they have to be detailed and 3D.
3. The distance between space and the Earth is great.

Believe it or not, before New Horizons was sent on to take pictures we only had a pixelated image from the Hubble Telescope. The image is so pixelated that it is very hard to correctly guess even the shape of Pluto.

The Actual Hubble Image of Pluto 

Gravity Assist

By definition, it is the use of relative movement and gravity of a planet to alter the path and speed of the spacecraft. In other words a very advanced slingshot.
But mind you this assist pulls the spacecraft towards the planet but if the speed is greater than the gravitational pull of the planet it doesn’t propose any danger to the spacecraft. In a worst-case scenario, it can make the spacecraft trapped in its gravitational field.
The larger the gravitational pull the greater the assistance.

New Horizons had a gravity assist from Jupiter which increased its speed by 20 % cutting the arriving time by a massive 3 years.

Gravity Assist of another Spacecraft named Voyager 1


Insights from the Control Room
Complete Graphical Information About Pluto, A Must Watch
Brilliant Video on Gravity Assist

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