Q:

What is the weather like on Pluto?

A:

Quick Answer

When Pluto is closest to the sun, the frozen nitrogen on its surface sublimates, meaning it turns into gas, to provide a thin atmosphere. When Pluto is farthest away from the sun, the nitrogen in its thin atmosphere refreezes and falls as snow. Temperatures can range from -378 to -396 degrees Fahrenheit.

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Full Answer

Pluto has a very slight variation in its seasonal temperatures, but the variation is large enough to produce a small physical change on the planet's surface and its atmosphere. Pluto is thought to have a rocky core surrounded by the ices of various gases. Nitrogen, methane and carbon dioxide are what scientists believe form the majority of the ice on the surface of Pluto. The dwarf planet acquires a hazy atmosphere during its warmest periods when it is closest to the sun due to the sublimation of the icy gases.

This atmosphere is not thick enough to provide a greenhouse effect for the planet to warm up enough for a well-defined weather system. The hazy gas refreezes and falls as snow when the temperature decreases as Pluto moves away from the sun. Pluto's axis has a tilt to it that causes one side to have prolonged exposure to the sun and the other to have extended periods of darkness. While this affects the temperature of the surface, the temperature does not change very significantly because Pluto does not receive a high amount of light or heat due to its proximity from the sun.

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