Pluto by Robert Daily

By Robert Daily

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What do they know today about Pluto's only moon? Here are the basics. Charon is about 740 miles (1,190 km) in diameter. This does not sound very big and, in fact, the state of Texas is wider. But Charon is more than half the size of Pluto, and nowhere in the solar system is there a moon so close in size to the planet it orbits. Our moon is the second largest, relatively speaking, and it is only about one-fourth the diameter of the Earth. it 42 -/S A ))A v ^/ yy moon was named after Charon, the mythological character who ferries the dead Pluto's across the River Styx to the underworld (which was ruled by Pluto himself).

In 1956, astronomer Gerard Kuiper said his studies proved that Pluto was an escaped satellite of Neptune, Kuiper, Pluto moon near itself of Pluto's neighbor. with — caused it something until a passing to a — maybe a once orbited alongside Neptune, collision According Triton, with Triton to escape Neptune's gravity star, or and take on its own orbit around the sun. quite similar to Triton. They're almost the same size and density (both It's true that Pluto is are mostly made of rock), and their atmospheres are equally thin.

By the way, when we talk about the sun's "warmth" hitting Pluto, that's a relative term! The coldest planet in the solar system boasts an average temperature of -395° F (-235° C). Imagine what a really cold day must be like! sun's and falls THE BIG LEAP Because Pluto is such a tiny planet, its field of gravity is very weak— only about 5 percent what we experience on Earth. 3 kg) on Pluto. Think how high you could leap and how fast 38 ^ Pluto at perihelion, when sun. 8 billion miles 39 — away! you could run on such a planet!

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