Episode 1: What is a dwarf planet?
What is a dwarf planet? In 60 seconds, you'll know. This is "Space Shorts."
Dwarf planets are a lot like regular planets:
- They both have enough mass and gravity to be nearly round - unlike odd-shaped asteroids.
- They both travel through space in a path around the Sun.
The big difference?
- A dwarf planet could be in for a bumpy ride as it travels - its path is full of other objects like asteroids.
- A regular planet has a clear path around the sun. Most of those impacts happened billions of years ago, so there's not much left over to get in the way.
There may be dozens of dwarf planets in our solar system. So far, we've classified just a handful -- most of them are very far away.
Pluto is the most famous, but closer to home is another mysterious world. Ceres: the first dwarf planet to be visited by a spacecraft.
With everything we learn from the Dawn mission, our understanding of planets and dwarf planets will rocket far beyond all that's been known before.