There’s a good summary of what we know about Pluto here at Universe Today. Among the interesting bits from history:
- The Lowell Observatory had captured images of Pluto in 1915, but it went unnoticed for another fifteen years until Clyde Tombaugh’s eagle eye with photographic plates unmasked that small white dot that moved.
- Pluto as a name won out over Cronos and Minerva mainly because the first two letters, P & L, were the initials of the observatory’s founder, Percival Lowell.
- NASA had an option to send Voyager 1 to Pluto by 1988. But they couldn’t do that and get a close flyby of Saturn’s moon Titan. So the Pluto encounter was nixed in favor of a near encounter with a smog-shrouded moon.
Nitrogen is a major component of Earth’s atmosphere. On Pluto, it is a major component of surface ice.
I’m looking forward to the trickle of data getting beamed back to Earth over the next several months. New Horizons is still monitoring Pluto and its moons to see if any rings or atmosphere is being backlit by the sun. Apparently, the probe cannot both capture images and point its antenna at the home planet.