This week NASA provided people with the opportunity to experience “Pluto Time.” Pluto’s moons have also been discovered to be moving at a strange pattern. Now that people can experience Pluto Time and observe the strange way in which Pluto’s moons interact, they can understand similarities between the dwarf planet and Earth itself. NASA provides new information on Pluto can help people understand more about conditions involving the Earth in relation to the moon and the sun.
Pluto time is the hour during the day that is between dusk and dawn. Because Pluto is further away from the sun than Earth, it receives much less sunlight. In fact, within the Milky Way’s solar system, Pluto is the planet the furthest away from the sun while Earth is the third closest. Due to its small size, Pluto is no longer considered a planet, and it carries the title dwarf planet with it to separate it from the other main planets within the solar system. With the considerable differences between Pluto and Earth, it is important to note that scientists are still trying to study Pluto; NASA’s Horizon spacecrafts took over nine years just to get close to the dwarf planet.
If people on Earth take a moment to look at the sky during the hour between dusk and dawn, they can observe the equivalent light levels that are present on Pluto’s horizon. It is incredible to be able to stand here on planet earth during this hour and realize that the same imagery is present billions of miles away on another surface. NASA even has a tool for people to enter their location into to know their personal Pluto time; the agency is also encouraging people to take pictures during this hour to celebrate the beauty of such a discovery.
Not only can humans understand Pluto’s conditions on Earth, but by knowing about the conditions of Pluto’s moons, people can understand more about the Earth’s moon. Indeed, scientists understand plenty about details on the moons gravity and its interaction with Earth, but for people who have not studied astronomy so closely, it can come as a surprise that Pluto has its own moons that circle around it, and around each other. That is right, even though Pluto is further away from the sun than Earth is, it gets to have more moons. NASA has given people enlightening information about Pluto that can help them understand Earth better.
First, it is important to know that there is a satellite called Charon that hangs nearby Pluto. Although Charon is not a planet either, the relationship between known as a binary planet system (the only one in the solar system). Charon and Pluto dance with each other and have been described “as if they are a dumbbell.” Furthermore, there are four little moons that circle the Pluto-Charon couple but the notable things about these moons is that they wobble a little bit when they come near either Pluto or Charon. There are pushes and pulls involved in the dance between these moons. They even wobble when they come near each other!
Understanding the relationship that Pluto has with Charon and its other moons can help people understand the relationship between the Earth and its moon. Many people look at the night sky and see the moon appearing at one angle or another without fail. If people can imagine the interesting relationships between Pluto and Charon, they can come to a better understanding of the relationship between the orbits of the the moon and the Earth, and the Earth and the sun. The visual described about Pluto and Charon can influence the visuals on the orbit systems of the Earth. NASA’s insights on Pluto can help people better understand conditions around Earth.
By Tania Dawood
CNET- Experience Earth on ‘Pluto Time’ with this NASA tool
TheTechPortal- New NASA Tool Helps You Experience ‘Pluto Time’
The Hindu- NASA finds Pluto’s moons ‘tumbling in absolute chaos’
Photo Courtesy of Bill Lile’s Flickr Page- Creative Commons License