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Pluto's Orbit - Windows to the Universe

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This is a drawing showing the orbit of Pluto and the outer planets. It shows the planets on June 1, 1997. In the larger version at least, you can see dots next to the names indicating planet position. In 1997, Pluto was closer to the Sun than Neptune.
Click on image for full size
JPL/NASA

Pluto's Orbit

Pluto has the most eccentric orbit of all the planets in the solar system. The orbit draws within the orbit of Neptune, as can be seen in this drawing, making Pluto the 8th planet rather than the 9th planet for roughly 20 years at a time. Pluto was the 8th planet from January 1979 to February 1999. Neptune is now the 9th planet for over 200 years!

It takes 248 years for Pluto to complete its orbit. This means that a single Pluto year is 248 earth years long.

Pluto really does have the most eccentric orbit of all of the planets (e=0.248). Its orbit takes it to 49.5 AU (7.4 billion kilometers) at its farthest point from the Sun. And its orbit takes it as close as 29 AU (4.34 billion kilomters) to the Sun.

In addition to its peculiar orbit, Pluto and its moon Charon are locked together as they orbit each other, so that the same side of each body always faces the other.


Last modified February 8, 2002 by Jennifer Bergman.

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Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part by the National Science Foundation and NASA, our Founding Partners (the American Geophysical Union and American Geosciences Institute) as well as through Institutional, Contributing, and Affiliate Partners, individual memberships and generous donors. Thank you for your support! NASA AGU AGI NSF