Pluto may be wearing a dark belt of moon dust

An interesting blog post I found today. Did you know that Pluto, which is only one sixth the mass of the moon, used to be classified as a planet? However, in 2006 it was re-classified as a dwarf planet by the International Astronomical Union.

ScienceQ publishing Group

On far-flung Pluto, it may be raining moon dust. Models suggest that Pluto’s small moons are even now sprinkling dust on its equator, which could explain why Pluto’s middle is darker than its poles. A NASA spacecraft headed for Pluto’s neighbourhood should be able to check out the claim when it arrives next year.

Is dust from Pluto's moons landing on the planet (centre)? <i>(Image: NASA, ESA and G. Bacon (STScI))</i>

Pluto and its moons lie in the Kuiper belt, a region beyond the orbit of Neptune filled with mostly small, icy worlds. While Pluto is only about half the size of Mercury, it boasts five known moons. The largest, Charon, is half Pluto’s size. The other four – Nix, Hydra, Kerberos and Styx – are much smaller. All five appear so similar that astronomers think a large object smashed into Pluto early in its history, ejecting debris that coalesced into moons.

The system is often bombarded by rocks flying through…

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