How Long Does It Take To Get To Pluto (And Why)?

Exact Answer: 9 To 12 Years

Pluto, which was considered the ninth planet of our solar system, is now a dwarf planet that was discovered by Clyde W. Tombaugh on February 18, 1930. It is also known as Plutino, Trans-Neptunian object, and Kuiper-belt object as well.

Pluto is the 9th largest and 10th most massive object known which directly orbits the Sun. Something interesting about Pluto is that it comes closer to Sun than as compared to Neptune.

Majorly comprised of ice and rock, this dwarf planet has a total of 5 Moons, named, Charon (the largest moon among all 5), Styx, Nix, Kerberos, and Hydra.

How Long Does It Take To Get To Pluto?

There are two factors that would affect the time about how long it will take to reach the dwarf planet, which is speed, and distance.

Talking about speed, with all the resources we have at the current time, speed will not make a big difference. It is so because almost all the resources work at the same speed. Whatever space rocket we use to reach Pluto will be having a common pace.

However, the other factor, distance makes a difference. There are particular times when Pluto is the closest to Earth, and some particular times when this dwarf planet is the most far from Earth.

The most far point, that is 49 AU, or simply saying, nearly 49 times the distance from Earth to Sun is known as ‘Aphelion’. This is the time when Pluto is most far from Earth and will happen in the future on August 23, 2113. If we try to reach Pluto during this time, then it would take around 12 to 13 years to reach Pluto.

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And the time when Pluto is the closest to Earth is called ‘Perihelion’. During this time, the distance between Earth and Pluto is 30 AU or can also be said as, 30 times the distance between Earth and Sun. This point was last reached on September 5th, 1989, If we try to reach Pluto during this time, then it would take nearly 9 to 11 years.

Here’s a summary of how long it will take to get to Pluto:

DistanceTime
Aphelion (most distant point)12 to 13 years
Perihelion (closest point)9 to 11 years

Why Does It Take That Long To Get To Pluto?

According to the studies and analysis of New Horizons, it takes 4.6 hours for just light to travel. And to highlight the fact, light travels at the fastest known speed.

Moreover, Pluto is 4.4 billion kilometers away during the Perihelion period and 7.3 billion kilometers away during the Aphelion period. So even if we go at an ideal speed of 58,000 km/h, then also if you do some math, it would not take less than 12 years to reach Pluto.

Knowing about some more statistics, New Horizons, launched Voyager on January 19th, 2006, and it reached Pluto on July 14th, 2015. So knowing, it took Voyager over 9 years and 5.25 months to reach Pluto.

So in the current times, we don’t have enough resources or any such powerful spacecraft which can take us to Pluto at a faster speed than Voyager. As a result, we are till now limited to reach the dwarf planet in no less than a time period of 9 years.

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But who knows what is there to come in the future? No one! With advancing time and this world getting developed we might be able to make more powerful space rockets which would take us to Pluto at a higher speed, and consequently, lesser time.

Conclusion

There is no doubt that the dwarf planet is the far most away from away when compared to all other planets. And knowing statistically, humans physically have not even reached to nearer planets as well, so practically thinking of getting to Pluto is not possible in coming decades or even centuries.

However, theories have no limits. Theoretically, we can roam around the whole solar system.

But there have been much researches going on by highly experienced astrophysics scientists and engineers about how can we reach Pluto and how long will it take humans to reach there. And, the most popular organization which is researching about the same and keeps on informing you regarding such news is New Horizons.

Though not soon, but definitely further in time, we will be able to reach Pluto with powerful resources and spacecraft.

References

  1. https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1086/513316/meta
  2. http://adsabs.harvard.edu/full/seri/AJ…/0083/0001005.000
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