The Encounter with Pluto

On July 14, 2015 the New Horizons spacecraft will encounter Pluto and return history-making images of this distant dwarf planet. Here are a few resources that feature this historic event!

Don't forget to return to this location in the coming weeks for new resources!

  • Book: Exploring the Dwarf Planets. This book describes how missions like New Horizons and Dawn are created, built, launched and how they return data back to Earth. Essays describe spacecraft design, STEM careers that form the basis for these missions, along with a series of 10 Space Math challenges to encourage a deeper understanding of the issues. A discussion of dwarf planets and why Pluto was 'demoted' is also provided. (PDF, 40 pages, 10 Mby).

  • Book: Exploring the Dwarf Planets Problem Guide. This book provides 11 math problems for middle and high school students that explore various aspects of the dwarf planets such as their atmospheres, sunlight changes, and the Kuiper Belt. Students also learn about the other known dwarf planets: Eris, Makemake, Haumea and Ceres. Answer Key is is available here, and also in the back of the book (PDF: 16 pages; 3 Mby).

  • Exploring the Atmosphere of Pluto The atmosphere of Pluto comes and goes as its temperature changes during the long Pluto year. This problem uses a simple equation to help you compare atmosphere thicknesses as temperature and constituents change. (PDF) | Answer Key.

  • Pluto: The Twilight World The sun is so far away from Pluto that High Noon is only as bright as twilight here on Earth. That means solar panels used for converting sunlight into electricity have to be much larger. This problem explores solar brightness and its impact on generating electricity in the remote reaches of our solar system. (PDF) | Answer Key.

  • Exploring the Dwarf Planets Scientists can learn a lot about the inside of a dwarf planet  by making very precise measurements of its diameter and  mass. From these measurements, average densities (mass  divided by volume) can be figured out. The density of an  object gives us a clue as to whether it is mostly rocky  or mostly icy.  (PDF).

  • Modeling the Interior of Pluto This interactive Excel spreadsheet lets you create a model of the interior of Pluto based on its diameter, mass and the densities of ice and rock. (Download .xlsx file).
  • Introducing SpaceMath@NASA

    SPACEMATH: The 'M' in STEM education for science and math educators.

    SpaceMath@NASA introduces students to the use of mathematics in today's scientific discoveries. Through press releases and other articles, we explore how many kinds of mathematics skills come together in exploring the universe. [Press Release]

    • Number One on GOOGLE (space+math)
      • 35,000 visitors per month
        • 12 million problem downloads
          • Exemplary NASA STEM resource