Of all the planets in the solar system, Pluto is likely the one that has caused the most controversy. In fact, the controversy centered around whether or not Pluto was even a planet.
In 2006, the International Astronomical Union declared Pluto to be a dwarf planet, rather than the ninth planet from the Sun as many people had grown accustomed to seeing it. The reasoning was as follows: Pluto isn’t big enough to exert orbital dominance and clear the area surrounding its orbit.
However, that doesn’t mean we can’t talk about a hypothetical trip to Pluto. For example, you might wonder how much you would weigh on Pluto.
How Much Would You Weigh on Pluto?
Assuming you would be able to handle the frigid temperatures and inhospitable atmosphere of Pluto, it does have a solid surface on which you could theoretically weigh yourself. Pluto has a much weaker gravitational pull than any of the proper planets in the solar system.
Your weight on Pluto would be only about 6% of your weight on Earth. This means that someone who weighs 200 pounds on Earth would only weigh 12 pounds on the surface of Pluto.
Below is a table that depicts how much individuals of numerous masses would weigh on Pluto:
|Weight on Earth
|Weight on Pluto
How Is Weight on Pluto Determined?
If you want to know why your weight on Pluto would be a tiny fraction of your weight on Earth, it’s important to know the difference between mass and weight. Mass is a measure of the amount of matter in an object, such as your body. Weight, on the other hand, is indicative of the amount of attraction between your body and the planet’s center.
There is an equation that makes it possible for us to calculate how much any person or object would weigh on a different planet: F=Mm/r2. Sir Isaac Newton derived this equation, in which M is the mass of the planet, m is the mass of your body, and r is the distance between you and the center of the planet.
Pluto is tiny compared to Earth, with a mass that is 0.2% of the mass of Earth. Unlike several planets, including Earth, Pluto does not bulge at the center. The radius of Pluto is the same at the equator and poles.
This dwarf planet is approximately 1/6 of the width of Earth, and it has a density that is about 40% of Earth’s.
In terms of size, Pluto can actually more fairly be compared with the Earth’s Moon than with Earth. In fact, it’s smaller than the Moon as well, with about 2/3 of the volume of the Moon.
Given how diminutive Pluto is compared to Earth, it should come as no surprise that the gravitational pull is so much weaker on this dwarf planet.
What Would Other Things Weigh on Pluto?
Pretty much anything you can think of would weigh 6% of its current weight if it were on Pluto.
On Pluto, a 3,000- to 3,500-pound mid-size car would weigh a mere 180 to 210 pounds! A standard basketball, which typically weighs 22 ounces (1 pound, 6 ounces), would weigh 1.32 ounces on Pluto. A gallon of milk, which weighs 8.6 ounces here, would only weigh about 0.52 ounces on Pluto.
If you want to know how much anything would weigh on Pluto, just take its weight and multiply it by a factor of 0.06.
How Much Does Pluto Weigh?
The mass of Pluto is 1.309 × 1022 kilograms, or 2.886 × 1022 pounds, which is 0.2% of Earth’s mass. It has 0.65% of the volume of our planet.
Most likely, Pluto has a core made of rocky elements, such as silicates. This core is surrounded by a mantle made of water ice. There are other ices on the surface of Pluto, including nitrogen, carbon, and methane ice.
Scientists believe that the interior of Pluto is likely between 50 and 70 percent rock, with the remaining 30 to 50 percent being ice. There are also likely decaying radioactive elements on the interior of the dwarf planet that would create heat and allow the rock and ice to be mobile.
NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft flew close to Pluto in July 2015 and showed us that Pluto is much more active than scientists had previously believed. They now believe that the outer part of the mantle may very well have been an ocean full of liquid water that only recently froze.
When it’s closer to the Sun, the ices on its surface sublime somewhat to become part of the atmosphere. As Pluto moves further away from the Sun, these gases cool and become a part of the solid surface once again.
Could Any Life Survive on Pluto?
Scientists believe that there’s essentially no chance of life on Pluto at this time. Because it’s so far from the Sun, it’s extremely cold, with temperatures sometimes going down as far as -400° Fahrenheit, or -240° Celsius. At these temperatures, water, as well as any other compounds that are present on the surface of Pluto, will be frozen into ice.
The surface pressure on Pluto is also extremely low, between 100,000 and 1,000,000 times less than the atmospheric pressure on Earth. Humans can suffer various health effects when the atmospheric pressure becomes too low, including altitude sickness which is a result of swelling of the brain and lungs. So just imagine how disastrous it could be if they were to deal with the pressure levels on Pluto!
No organism that we know of would be able to survive the extreme cold, extremely low pressure, and constant atmospheric changes.
Could There Be Life on Pluto Someday?
The Sun is expected to expand into a red giant in about 5.4 billion years. At this point, the inner planets (including Earth) will be consumed by the Sun, which will also emit far more energy than it does now.
Over the course of half a billion years, the Sun will then likely expand until it’s more than 200 times its current size and thousands of times more luminous. Then, it’s expected to lose about a third of its mass over the billion years after that.
Scientists do not believe that life would be able to originate from scratch on Pluto in this relatively short time, but at this point, it may be feasible that life forms could be moved from Earth to Pluto and survive there.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © NASA images/Shutterstock.com
Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.