How big is Texas compared to Pluto?

How big is Texas compared to Pluto?

This July 13, 2015 image provided by NASA shows Pluto, seen from the New Horizons spacecraft. The United States is now the only nation to visit every single planet in the solar system. Pluto was No. 9 in the lineup when New Horizons departed Cape Canaveral, Fla, on Jan. 19, 2006  (NASA via AP)
This July 13, 2015 image provided by NASA shows Pluto, seen from the New Horizons spacecraft. The United States is now the only nation to visit every single planet in the solar system. Pluto was No. 9 in the lineup when New Horizons departed Cape Canaveral, Fla, on Jan. 19, 2006 (NASA via AP)

This was just one of many questions that ran through Texans’ minds when a nine-year, three-billion-mile NASA mission reached its goal this morning when the New Horizons spacecraft made the first close-encounter pass with the former planet.

Here is the answer you’ve been waiting for:

According to the Texas Almanac, the longest straight-line distance between two points in Texas, from the northwest corner of the Panhandle to the southernmost tip on the Rio Grande River below Brownsville, is 801 miles.

Measurements from the probe New Horizons, whose mission marks the farthest distance humanity has ever made, has put Pluto as a wee bit bigger than previous estimates with a diameter of 1,473 miles.

In other words, the dwarf planet is just double the size of the biggest state in the continental United States when it comes to distance across.

But when it comes to surface area, the dwarf planet dwarfs the Lone Star state: With an estimated surface area of 6,427,806 square miles, Pluto could hold almost 24 states the size of Texas.

That’s not bad considering that Pluto is the largest known object in the solar system beyond Neptune.

Way to go, Texas.

Now that you have the hard data, here is a rough estimate of Texas versus Pluto, Texas versus Pluto’s largest moon Ceres and Texas versus the moon:

http://twitter.com/favdata/status/574031846691987456

Related reads: 

» Timeline: Pluto flyby

» Pluto close-up: Spacecraft makes flyby of icy, mystery world

» 5 things to know about NASA’s Pluto flyby

5 things to know about NASA’s Pluto flyby

NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft will make the first close-encounter pass to Pluto Tuesday morning after nine years and three billion miles traveled. Here is what you need to know about the fastest spacecraft ever launched and what it is out to discover about the former planet:

This July 11, 2015, image provided by NASA shows Pluto from the New Horizons spacecraft. On Tuesday, July 14, NASA's New Horizons spacecraft will come closest to Pluto. New Horizons has traveled 3 billion miles over 9½ years to get to the historic point. (NASA/JHUAPL/SWRI via AP)
This July 11, 2015, image provided by NASA shows Pluto from the New Horizons spacecraft. On Tuesday, July 14, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft will come closest to Pluto. New Horizons has traveled 3 billion miles over 9½ years to get to the historic point. (NASA/JHUAPL/SWRI via AP)

• In exploring Pluto, reclassified back in 2006 as a dwarf planet, scientists hope to explore “a whole new class of small planet.” Objects like Pluto that are part of the Kuiper Belt are thought to be some of the oldest bodies in the solar system.

• The seven unique instruments aboard New Horizons will take in massive amounts of data during the flyby — so much that it may take up to 16 months to send all the information back to Earth. Scientists will use the data to confirm whether or not Pluto has subterranean oceans; what the dark splotch named “the whale” identified in earlier images of the dwarf planet might be; and whether or not Pluto has any additional moons, among dozens of other things.

• Pluto has already turned out to be larger than previous estimates, according to measurements taken by New Horizons. Though still not large enough to classify as a planet, at 1,473 miles in diameter, Pluto is the largest known object in the solar system beyond Neptune’s orbit.

• Since control messages from Earth take up to 4.5 hours to reach New Horizons as it nears Pluto, the spacecraft will be largely on its own as it makes its long-awaited, close-encounter pass. With speeds up 36,450 miles per hour, the piano-sized probe is also the world’s fastest.

• The ashes of Clyde Tombaugh, the farmer turned astronaut who originally discovered Pluto back in 1930, are aboard the spacecraft. VBSDC (Venetia Burney Student Dust Counter), an instrument named after the 11-year-old girl who named the planet, is also aboard.

New Horizons is on track to pass about 7,750 miles from Pluto at 7:49 am Eastern Daylight Time Tuesday. You can use NASA’s “Eyes on Pluto” app to follow along.

More reads about Pluto:

•  When we discovered Pluto, it changed how we saw the solar system

•  From the start, Pluto was a puzzle: Timeline

•  Hello, Pluto: The 9-year journey to a new horizon

• Interactive: Pluto revealed

• Physicist Tim Blais pays musical tribute to New Horizons, Pluto