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The Universe at Your Fingertips 2.0 DVD from the Astronomical Society of the Pacific is in our online store, filled with Earth and space science resources.
This is a picture of dry ice (frozen CO2) evaporating.
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JPL

Why Pluto has an Atmosphere

Because the orbit of Pluto is so strange, Pluto is sometimes close enough to the sun for the ices on its surface to evaporate.

When Pluto comes close enough to the sun, the surface of solid Nitrogen evaporates to produce an atmosphere with winds and clouds. Because the planet does not have enough gravity, however, the atmosphere quickly drifts away.

By 1999, Pluto will leave the neighborhood of Neptune and drift further away from the sun in its orbit. As it gets further from the sun it will no longer produce an atmosphere. Thus it will soon be too late for humankind to study Pluto's unique environment. These are good reasons to explore Pluto now.


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Traveling Nitrogen Classroom Activity Kit

Check out our online store - minerals, fossils, books, activities, jewelry, and household items!...more

Discovery of Pluto

Pluto is so far away, and has never been explored. Questions to answer about Pluto include the following: What are the geologic features of the surface? (pictures of the surface) If there are bare spots,...more

A Look at Pluto's Atmosphere

It may seem hard to believe that Pluto could have an atmosphere because it is so cold, but it does. Because there are times when Pluto is closer to the sun than is Neptune (making it the 8th planet for...more

Pluto & Charon, a double planet

Of all the planets and moons in the solar system, Pluto and Charon are the two which are the most alike. They are almost the same size, and they are very close together. Pluto and Charon are so close...more

A Look at Pluto's possible Magnetosphere

No one knows whether or not Pluto has a magnetosphere. Scientists were very surprised to find that Jupiter's icy moon Ganymede had a magnetosphere because it is hard to explain how an icy body can develop...more

The Moons of Pluto

Pluto has // Call the moon count function defined in the document head print_moon_count('pluto'); moons. One of the moons is very big. The big moon is name Charon. The other two moons are small. They don't...more

Pluto

Pluto is a frigid ball of ice and rock that orbits far from the Sun on the frozen fringes of our Solar System. Considered a planet, though a rather odd one, from its discovery in 1930 until 2006, it was...more

Pluto's Interior

The diagram to the left shows what the inside of Pluto may look like. Pluto is mostly made of ice, with a small core of some rocky material buried inside. If the interior is warm enough, the inside of...more

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