Pluto from Palomar

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The above infrared image of Pluto (arrowed) was taken by Tom Jarrett (Infrared Processing and Analysis Center / Spitzer Science Center / Caltech) using the Palomar Observatory's 200-inch Hale Telescope with its Wide-field Infrared Camera.

The image was recorded in three near-infrared wavelengths: "J" centered at 1.250 microns, "H" at 1.635 microns, and "Ks" at 2.150. The J image was mapped to blue, H to green and Ks to red to make the color image.

Mickey and Pluto (click to enlarge)

Curiously when this image of Pluto (arrowed) was recorded it happened to be close in the sky to a grouping of three stars (left of Pluto) that calls to mind a cartoon mouse associated with the animated dog named Pluto.

In August 2006 the International Astronomical Union voted to redefine Pluto's status. It is now known as one of our solar system's "dwarf planets." Another dwarf planet is a world discovered at Palomar known as Eris. Eris is larger than Pluto. Both bodies are members of the Kuiper belt, a swarm of icy bodies that orbit around the Sun beyond the orbit of Neptune.

A diagram showing the relative sizes of Earth, Pluto, Eris and other distant solar system objects.

Press release: Xena Awarded "Dwarf Planet" Status, IAU Rules; Solar System Now Has Eight "Classical" Planets

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