Science and Exploration

Video: How is Pluto Classified as a Rocky World?

By Marc Boucher
Status Report
April 9, 2016
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Video: How is Pluto Classified as a Rocky World?
How is Pluto Classified as a Rocky World?.

When it comes to Pluto, classification is tricky, but it’s unquestioningly a rocky body. This is Pluto in a Minute.
The bodies in our solar system fall more or less into set categories like gas giants, terrestrial planets, icy comets, and small bodies like asteroids. So where does Pluto fit? Thanks to data and images gathered by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, mission scientists can confirm that Pluto is, in fact, a rocky world.

Orbiting anywhere from 30 to 50 times further from the sun than the Earth, Pluto’s composition is far more reminiscent of a terrestrial planet than a gas giant, and far more rocky than scientists expected. Pluto’s surface looks to be dominated by nitrogen ice with some methane and carbon mixed in.

As for its overall makeup, Pluto is likely about 70 percent rock and 30 percent water ice, which behaves a lot like rock in Pluto’s frigid region of the solar system. Internally, scientists suspect Pluto has a rocky core surrounded by a mantle of water ice with the more exotic ices appearing only on the surface.

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