Online College Courses for Credit

Space Science

Space Science

Author: Dan Biggs

To learn about the planet Pluto.

Middle School Science Classes - 7th & 8th grades.

CCSS Science Content Standards for California Public Schools, Focus on Physical Sciences, Earth in the Solar System, 4.e

Based on the recent fly-by of the probe "New Horizons", we will be studying the new discoveries on the planet.

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Our Solar System


Our solar system is made up of the Sun, four rocky planets (the inner, or nearest to the sun), four large, gas planets, the astroid belt, the Kuiper Belt, the Oort Cloud, and countless comets and other flying debris.  Until just a few years ago, we had another, very small, rocky planet called Pluto.  Pluto orbited at the very edge of our solar system, and was very difficult to see - even with the space-based Hubble telescope.  But now we finally have a close up look at our distant neighbor.

In the next few slides, read about the fascinating story of the planet Pluto.  When you are done, please complete the quiz.

Source: Image courtesy of

NASA Probes


NASA has been sending probes to explore planets in our solar system since the 1970's, and has finally had a probe arrive at Pluto.  Pluto was originally discovered in 1930 by Clyde Tombaugh, but even from the start, Pluto stood out as an unusual planet.  Click on the link above the picture to read about the history of the discovery of Pluto.

Source: Image courtesy of

What's next for Pluto and New Horizons

Now that the New Horizons probe has made it's nearest fly-by of Pluto, what's next?  This is hardly the end for the probe which will now begin exploring the outer reaches of the solar system.  Click on the link above to learn about the future explorations of this rugged little spacecraft.

Source: Image courtesy of

The Big Question

In your own words, write a 1-2 page paper on why it is important that we sent a probe to Pluto, why we should explore the solar system or if it is waste of time and money, and what we hope to learn from this exploration.