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Gail S Hennessey's picture
Gail Skroback Hennessey taught for over 33 years, teaching sixth grade in all but two years. She earned a BA in early secondary education with a concentration in social studies and an MST in social...
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New Horizons About to Reach Pluto


After 9 1/2 years, New Horizons is about to give Earthlings an amazing view of Pluto!  On Tuesday, July 14th, after 3 billion miles, the spacecraft will be within 7800 miles of the dwarf planet (which was still considered a planet back during the 2006 launch). It will take 4 1/2 hours, traveling at the speed of light, for New Horizons' snapshots to reach Earth. Mission control at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab in Laurel, Maryland, will begin sharing photographs with the rest of us soon after. The flyby of New Horizons will last only a few hours. If you look to the lower left, scientist have nicknamed the dark region, the whale. And, to the right, is a white heart shaped region of Pluto. Illustration from


Fun Facts:

  • Pluto was discovered in 1930, by Clyde Tombaugh.
  • Pluto takes 248 1/2 years to orbit the sun! (The earth does this in one year)
  • It takes Pluto  6 1/2 days to turn on its axis (The Earth takes 24 hours)
  • For a time, between 1979 and 1999, Neptune was further away from the sun than Pluto was!
  • Pluto has four known moons. Charon is the largest.
  • Bundle up on Pluto as the temperatures is about minus 390F.
  • No longer a planet, Pluto is also now known as 134340.
  • It takes 8 minutes for the sun’s light to reach Earth. It takes five hours to reach Pluto.
  • It is so dark on Pluto that stars can be seen during the day.
  • Disney’s dog Pluto was supposed to have been named after Pluto.
  • Back in 1930, an eleven year old girl, Venetia Burney, suggested the name of Pluto!
  • It takes about a week for the sun to rise and set on Pluto.
  • Percival Lowell first suggested a search for a planet beyond Neptune.
  • Pluto has about 1/15 the gravity of Earth. If you weigh 100 pounds on Earth, you’d weigh about 7 pounds on Pluto.
  • Pluto is called a dwarf planet or a plutoid.



  • A MNEMONIC is a way to remember lists using the first letters of each. One used for the planets was: My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas.  Think of a new MNEMONIC for the 8 planets or a mnemonic for remembering something else.
  • Read why Pluto was demoted from being one of our nine planets.  What do you think, should Pluto be a planet or not? Why, why not?
  • Check out my webquest on space. There are 12 informative webquestions, comprehension questions and extension activities. 



Check out my website for teachers and kids,