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Mysterious Tiny Worlds
Dwarf planets are round and orbit the Sun just like the eight major planets. But unlike planets, dwarf planets are not able to clear their orbital path so there are no similar objects at roughly the same distance from the Sun. A dwarf planet is much smaller than a planet (smaller even than Earth's moon), but it is not a moon. Pluto is the best known of the dwarf planets.

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Long, Strange Trip
Pluto's trek around our sun takes 248 years -- so long it still hasn't finished one orbit since it was discovered in 1930. The planet's orbit is so elliptical -- picture a squashed circle -- its distance from the sun varies more than 2.7 billion km (1.9 billion miles).
Long, Strange Trip
Deep Freeze
Pluto is so cold even the air can freeze and fall to the ground like snow. The planet's average temperature is about -387 degrees Fahrenheit (-233 degrees Celsius). For comparison, the coldest spot on Earth gets down to -128 degrees Fahrenheit (-89 degrees Celsius).
Deep Freeze
Distance Runner
Even though it travels at speeds 30 times greater than the fastest fighter jet, NASA's New Horizons spacecraft will still take nine and a half years to get to Pluto. If you could somehow fly an airliner to Pluto, the trip would take more than 800 years.
Distance Runner
Bring a Flashlight
High noon on Pluto would look a lot like a moonlit night here on Earth. The sunlight that reaches Pluto is about 1,000 times dimmer than what we see here on Earth and provides little warmth.
Bring a Flashlight
Camera-Shy Planet
Pluto is so small and so far from Earth it is currently impossible to get good pictures. Even our most powerful telescopes show little more than fuzzy blobs when pointed across billions of kilometers at Pluto and Charon.
Camera-Shy Planet
Faint Discovery
There are millions of stars brighter than dwarf planet Pluto in the night sky, but observant astronomer Clyde Tombaugh caught a faint image -- light equal to a candle seen at a distance of 480 km (300 miles) -- on a photographic plate. Tombaugh had discovered the mysterious Pluto.
Faint Discovery
Mission Milestone
Dwarf planets within the Kuiper Belt have never been visited -- ever. New Horizons, the first mission to a dwarf planet and other objects within the Kuiper Belt, is scheduled to arrive at Pluto in 2015.
Mission Milestone
Dwarf Planet/Asteroid
The largest asteroid in the asteroid belt is Ceres at about 952 km (592 miles) in diameter. Ceres is so large that it is also categorized as a dwarf planet. Ceres is the only dwarf planet found outside of the Kuiper Belt.
Dwarf Planet/Asteroid
Dethroned
When Eris -- about the same size as Pluto -- was found deep in the zone (Kuiper Belt) beyond Neptune it caused quite a stir. The discovery of this dwarf planet caused Pluto to be demoted from the status of "planet" to that of a "dwarf planet."
Dethroned
Fast Football
Dwarf planet Haumea is one of the fastest rotating objects in our solar system. Faster than all of the planets and the other dwarf planets, Haumea rotates once every four hours. Haumea spins so fast that it has pulled itself into the shape of a squashed American football.
Fast Football
Little Rocks
The dwarf planets in the solar system are very different from the eight planets. Most are so small that they are smaller across than the distance from Los Angeles to San Francisco: It would also take about 30 thousand of them to create an object the size of the Earth.
Little Rocks
Long, Strange Trip
Pluto's trek around our sun takes 248 years -- so long it still hasn't finished one orbit since it was discovered in 1930. The planet's orbit is so elliptical -- picture a squashed circle -- its distance from the sun varies more than 2.7 billion km (1.9 billion miles).
Long, Strange Trip
Deep Freeze
Pluto is so cold even the air can freeze and fall to the ground like snow. The planet's average temperature is about -387 degrees Fahrenheit (-233 degrees Celsius). For comparison, the coldest spot on Earth gets down to -128 degrees Fahrenheit (-89 degrees Celsius).
Deep Freeze
Distance Runner
Even though it travels at speeds 30 times greater than the fastest fighter jet, NASA's New Horizons spacecraft will still take nine and a half years to get to Pluto. If you could somehow fly an airliner to Pluto, the trip would take more than 800 years.
Distance Runner
Bring a Flashlight
High noon on Pluto would look a lot like a moonlit night here on Earth. The sunlight that reaches Pluto is about 1,000 times dimmer than what we see here on Earth and provides little warmth.
Bring a Flashlight
Camera-Shy Planet
Pluto is so small and so far from Earth it is currently impossible to get good pictures. Even our most powerful telescopes show little more than fuzzy blobs when pointed across billions of kilometers at Pluto and Charon.
Camera-Shy Planet
Faint Discovery
There are millions of stars brighter than dwarf planet Pluto in the night sky, but observant astronomer Clyde Tombaugh caught a faint image -- light equal to a candle seen at a distance of 480 km (300 miles) -- on a photographic plate. Tombaugh had discovered the mysterious Pluto.
Faint Discovery
Mission Milestone
Dwarf planets within the Kuiper Belt have never been visited -- ever. New Horizons, the first mission to a dwarf planet and other objects within the Kuiper Belt, is scheduled to arrive at Pluto in 2015.
Mission Milestone
Dwarf Planet/Asteroid
The largest asteroid in the asteroid belt is Ceres at about 952 km (592 miles) in diameter. Ceres is so large that it is also categorized as a dwarf planet. Ceres is the only dwarf planet found outside of the Kuiper Belt.
Dwarf Planet/Asteroid
Dethroned
When Eris -- about the same size as Pluto -- was found deep in the zone (Kuiper Belt) beyond Neptune it caused quite a stir. The discovery of this dwarf planet caused Pluto to be demoted from the status of "planet" to that of a "dwarf planet."
Dethroned
Fast Football
Dwarf planet Haumea is one of the fastest rotating objects in our solar system. Faster than all of the planets and the other dwarf planets, Haumea rotates once every four hours. Haumea spins so fast that it has pulled itself into the shape of a squashed American football.
Fast Football
Little Rocks
The dwarf planets in the solar system are very different from the eight planets. Most are so small that they are smaller across than the distance from Los Angeles to San Francisco: It would also take about 30 thousand of them to create an object the size of the Earth.
Little Rocks