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Person, Michael J. Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
- First detection
- Occultation observations, 2002–2014
- New Horizons and concurrent observations
- Present understanding
- Related Primary Literature
- Additional Reading
Since its discovery in 1930, scientists have tried to characterize Pluto from afar, but with the extreme distance between Pluto and the Earth (about 5 × 109 km or 3 × 109 mi in 2016), direct observation is very difficult. Pluto's largest moon, Charon, was not discovered until 1978, and attempts to map Pluto's surface only began in the late 1980s. Yet throughout this period, astronomers theorized about the possibility that our “ninth planet” might have an atmosphere, even though it was totally undetectable with the technology of the time. See also: Pluto; Satellite (astronomy)
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