BBC HomeExplore the BBC
This page was last updated in May 2006We've left it here for reference.More information

20 April 2014
Accessibility help
Text only
BBC NorfolkBBC Norfolk

BBC Homepage
» Norfolk

Contact Us

Like this page?
Send it to a friend!


Graphic: You are in Norfolk > KidsGo to Norfolk homepageGo to kids index

Pic: Mark Lawrik-Thompson
Graphic: Astronomy: your questions answered Norfolk astronomer and Chairman of the Norwich Astronomical Society Mark Thompson is here to answer your questions about space.
Picture: Uranus
Uranus is surrounded by rings

What are Uranus's rings made of? Can you study Pluto from Earth?

Read the answers to your questions by local astronomer, Mark.

I'm a bit confused, when it says that Pluto is made from rock and ice, does it mean that if the ice was melted it would turn to water, or is it a different liquid? I didn't think water existed anywhere else than Earth?

Answer: There is definitely water ice elsewhere in the Solar System, its been found on the Moon, is believed to be on Mars too. Pluto is made up almost entirely of ice. A mission is on its way there now to find out but will take many years to arrive.

Why is the temperature of Pluto higher than the temperature of Neptune, even though it is furthest from the sun?

Answer: On average, the temperature on Pluto is -229 degrees, but on Neptune it is -200 degrees. However, Pluto has a very elliptical orbit which means that on occasions it's nearer to the Sun than Neptune and so it warms up a small amount.

Can you tell me why some scientists think that Pluto is not a planet and some think that it is?

Answer: In our Solar System we have major planets and minor planets. Both are basically objects that orbit around the Sun.

The planets Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune are all much bigger than any other objects in the Solar System and so are said to be major planets.

Because Pluto is so much smaller scientists can't agree on whether its like all the other planets or like the smaller pieces of rock called minor planets.

Some websites I've been on say Uranus has got a ring around it as well as Saturn however other sites say it hasn't. My sister is in year 6 at school and is making a model of a solar system and I'm not sure if Uranus has a ring around it... please help me!

Answer: Uranus has got a ring around it, as has Jupiter, Saturn and Neptune. Saturn's rings are by far the best though.

What kind of atmosphere does Pluto have in general? I am doing a class project about this planet and is very hard to find information on it. Can you please help?

Answer: Pluto is normally the most distant planet from the Sun and at those great distances most chemicals are in their ice form.

As Pluto gets close to the Sun gasses called Nitrogen, Methane and Carbon monoxide melt evaporate and form an atmosphere.

It's only short lived though, as eventually Pluto moves further away from the Sun again and the gases freeze back into ice.

How do Uranus' rings stay in place? How did Uranus end up where it did in the solar system?

Answer: The rings of Uranus stay in place because of gravity. Gravity is the thing that holds you and me on the Earth and keeps the Moon moving around us.

The rings or Uranus are made up of thousands and thousands of tiny pieces of rock, all like tiny little moons. Each one is held in place by gravity.

I am doing a project on Pluto in school can you tell me how old is Pluto?

Answer: Pluto, like all the planets in the Solar System is thought to be about 5 billion years old.

What is the name of the planet after Pluto?

Answer: We still don't know if there are any large planets beyond Pluto. We have found two smaller ones though; one is called Quaoar and the other is called Sedna.

I am doing a project about Uranus and I would like to know is it a good place to colonise?

Picture: Pluto
Image of Pluto taken using a Hubble Space telescope

Answer: Uranus, the 7th planet from the Sun is very much unlike the Earth.

As we know, the Earth has got a solid surface that you and I can walk around on and can build structures.

Uranus on the other hand is made up almost entirely of gas and so has no such solid surface.

Even if we could find someway of living in the atmosphere of Uranus, its distance from the Sun gives average daytime temperatures of only -200 degrees.

Uranus is not a good place to try and set-up a human colony.

Is Pluto made out of ice?

Answer: Pluto is made up of a mixture of rock and ice but because it is so far away from us we don't know a great deal more about it.

How big is Uranus?

Answer: Uranus is 50,000 km across at the equator.

How would you design a biodome where people could live on Uranus? I already know that you would need several good heaters to stay warm and not get sick, and that you would need a large supply of big oxygen tanks. But I can't find out anything else! Can you help me?

Answer: Uranus is not a good place to try to live on. It is made of gas so has no solid surface that you could put a biosphere on. The only option would be to make something that could orbit around the planet, a bit like the International Space Station.

What are Uranus rings made of?

Answer: Saturn is not the only planet in the Solar System to have a ring system. Jupiter, Uranus and Neptune have rings too.

All of the rings are made up of millions and millions of pieces of rock and dust, some pieces no bigger than a few centimetres across, all moving around the planet, just like our Moon moves around us.

I am doing a project on Pluto and I already have a lot of information, but what I am struggling in though is the small but yet interesting facts.

Could you please help me getting some small but really neat facts. Thank you!

Answer: Great idea to do school project about Pluto. How about these facts to get you started:

If you could travel as fast as light (300,000 km per second) it would take you 5.5 hours go get to Pluto from the Earth.

Pluto has one moon called Charon which is over half the size of Pluto.

Can scientists study Pluto any more from Earth or do they have to send something up into space?

Answer: Pluto is the most distant planet in the Solar System for most of the time but is also the smallest of all the planets.

Because it is so far away and so small it makes studying it from Earth really hard. The attached picture shows the best picture taken from near the Earth using the Hubble Space Telescope.

Scientists will not be able to do much more research from Earth because it is so hard to see Pluto in any detail so will have to wait until the New Horizons space mission which is due for launch in January 2006 and will arrive in July 2015.

Got a question? Send them to us here »

jump to homepage.
send an e-mail to the BBC website for Norfolk.
Print friendly version of this page
See also

On this site

Astronomy index

Ask the astronomer

International Space Station

Make a rocket

Make a sundial

New Planet

Planet Jupiter

Planet Mars

The Moon

Planets Pluto, Neptune and Uranus

Planet Saturn

Planet Venus

The Star of Bethlehem

The Sun

Your questions answered

Venus passes in front of the Sun


BBC Space

The home of CBBC online

On the rest of the web

Norwich Astronomical Society

Breckland Astronomical Society

North Norfolk Astronomical Society

NASA for kids

Inspire Science Centre

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external websites

Graphic: More Norfolk kids

Picture: Lydia: link.

Book review: The Inventors

Jake pops back home

Gardening with grandpa Gipp

Graphic: Not to be missed

Norfolk has loads of cool stuff for kids to do. Check out what's on offer and enjoy these features.
Graphic: Stuff to do and make

Looking for stuff to do at home or with your mates? Try these makes and science experiments.
Graphic: Live webchat with Chris Rankin: link

Weasley webchat: What did you ask actor Chris Rankin?
Graphic: A-Z of Norfolk Science: link

Amazing scientific facts and features where you live

About the BBC | Help | Terms of Use | Privacy & Cookies Policy