Question: How can we measure the distance between the earth and pluto?

How can we measure the distance between the earth and pluto? And how long will it takes to travel from earth to pluto when we ride in an airplane?

Relation Questions:

4 188 744 000 000 meters is the shortest distance if the calculator was right you get this as when the earth and pluto are closest i dunno by plane though to even travel with a rocket is impossible i mean seriously unless the plane can travel a quarter of the speed of light i guess we could make it.......WARP SPEED

the closest distance between the Earth and Pluto occurs when Earth is at its most distant from the Sun, and Pluto is at its closest. And the Sun, Earth and Pluto are lined up in a perfect line. When this happens, Pluto and Earth would be separated by 4.2 billion km.

At their most distant, Earth would be at its furthest at the opposite side of the Sun from Pluto. At this point, Earth and Pluto would be separated by 7.5 billion km.

it would be impossible to fly an airplane to pluto

*Note*
Looking at other answers, my math might be off. I come up with slightly less than 4billion miles.

With observation alone? Well, in combination with physics, anyway...

A very general way to determine the distance from the sun to Pluto (well, the average distance anyway) would be to observe Pluto make one complete orbit (which it hasn't quite done yet since it's discovery), and let Kepler's Third Law do the rest of the work for you.

P^2 = a^3

If you can determine how long it takes Pluto to orbit the sun in earth years, square that number... then take the cubed root of your answer, and you know the (average) distance of Pluto from the sun in A.U.

But that only gives you the semimajor axis... and Pluto in particular, has a decent degree of eccentricity to its orbit, complicating matters more.

To make the answer to this question even more complex, at any *random* point in time, the earth could be on the same side of the sun, or the opposite side of the sun as Pluto, so even if you calculated the exact sun-Pluto distance for any given moment in time, your earth-Pluto distance could be as small as 1 A.U. less than that or as large 1A.U. more than that sun-Pluto distance. If Pluto is at opposition, you know it will be the smaller figure. If it is at conjunction, you know it will be the larger number. If at neither, you know it will be somewhere inbetween the two.

(It gets even more complex when you take into account 3-D space, and Pluto and earth's inclinations to the ecliptic but I'll spare that craziness).

248.09 Years is the figure I've been given from a few sources for Pluto's orbital period. Using Kepler's Third Law, that gives it a semi-major axis of 39.486 A.U.

1 A.U. = 93million miles.

So, on average, just based on the math, Pluto is 3,672,198,000 miles (5,908,566,582 km) from the sun. (This is 2 million km off from the wikipedia listed semi-major axis of 5,906,376,272km... so given the approximated values, this should be well within the range of negligible inaccuracy).

The airplane ride there.

Well, assuming your airplane could withstand the conditions of space, was suited for escaping the gravity of earth, and all those other details, let's take a look at this.

Most commercial airliners fly between 680-900km/h (*cruise* speed). Jetliners and millitary craft can get you there faster... I *think* up to three times(???) faster than a commercial airliner.

Let's use the high end of that (commercial) figure. At 900km/h, it would take:

6,565,073.98 hours (about 750 years) to get from (the sun) to Pluto (at it's average distance... but this math is based on the figure I came up with, not the wikipedia listed one, since your first question asked how I would calculate it, not how I would look it up on the internet).

From earth, of course, the answer would be a figure close to this, give or take several years, depending on the orbit's of earth and Pluto, and the time you left. Be sure to fly to where Pluto is going to be, and not where it currently is!

Morningfoxnorth is right. You compute the orbit. But you still need to know the distances to other objects to calibrate the distance scales. And this was extremely difficult.

One idea was to get two observations of a transit of Venus from different locations on Earth. That was hoped to give us the distance to Venus. But the timings weren't precise enough. Some atmospheric (of the Earth) effect made a sort of bubble on the edge of the Sun. Well, did it happen or not?

Then, some idea having to do with Mars was tried, and the distance scale was set. What it was, exactly, escapes me.

These days, the distances to "nearby" planets, like Saturn, are known with high precision, through RADAR timing studies. If that weren't enough, we've sent spacecraft to all of the planets. Their positions and speeds are known with extraordinary precision.

Everything about the relative distances and positions in the solar system can be figured out by observing the positions of the planets with time, except for a single scale factor. In other words, we would know the ratio of all the distances to each other, but not the actual scale of the system. We could make a perfect scale model, but not know the actual scale. The scale of the system can be set by knowing a single distance, and then all the other distances are scaled to that one distance. The one distance we know best is the distance from the Earth to Venus, which can be accurately measured by radar.

The distance to Pluto is measured by figuring out the orbit of Pluto. That is done by seeing where in the sky it is, for about a year or so, and then doing a lot of calculations.

Pluto is more than 4 BILLION kilometers away. It would take the average jet plane about 450 years to get there - - except that of course, a jet plane can't leave the Earth's atmosphere.

the distance is measured by instruments that are pointed off the sun and they bounce off of venus. the time it takes for the light from the instrument to hit pluto is the distance in light years. i am not sure what the instrument is called though.

someone could probally shoot a light beam (or watever) to pluto & back and then divide the answer by 2 !?!?

Divide it by the mass of Uranus...i'm kidding I have no idea.