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Could Pluto be classed as a planet again ?

Posted on Tuesday, 8 March, 2016 | Comment icon 41 comments

Should Pluto be classed as a planet or as a dwarf planet ? Image Credit: NASA
The discovery of what look like clouds on Pluto has reignited the debate over its dwarf planet status.
Once considered to be the ninth planet in our solar system, the distant world of Pluto was demoted by the International Astronomical Union to the status of dwarf planet ten years ago to put it more in line with the plethora of other small, icy bodies that had been discovered around that time.

After data from NASA's groundbreaking New Horizons mission started to trickle back to Earth last year however some scientists started to call in to question the IAU's definition of the term 'planet' and whether Pluto should have ever been stripped of its planetary status in the first place.

The case for its reinstatement would go on to strengthen even further after New Scientist published internal conversations between planetary scientists discussing whether or not some of the New Horizons photographs actually showed evidence of clouds floating in Pluto's atmosphere.

New Horizons principle investigator Alan Stern, who is a keen advocate of seeing Pluto reacquire its planetary status, maintains that it passes what he calls the "Star Trek test".

"When Captain Kirk turns on the viewfinder, the audience knows immediately if it's a planet or a star or simply an asteroid or small comet or something," he said.

"They don't have to do any math. You just look at it. This is what I call the Star Trek test. People know a planet when they see one, and I think that's a pretty darn good test, in fact, for planethood."

Source: Sydney Morning Herald | Comments (41)

Tags: Pluto

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #32 Posted by danielost on 10 March, 2016, 19:58
ceres has been returned to planatary status. currently we have 4 rocky planets,4gas gaint planets., and 5 dwarf planets. all of which are planets but of all of them pluto was found via a misatake in math, ie we.were supposed to find it.
Comment icon #33 Posted by danielost on 10 March, 2016, 20:13
the [roblem is at that time we thoughtv pluto was thje size of the earth. because we didn't know about its main moon.
Comment icon #34 Posted by Derek Willis on 10 March, 2016, 20:14
William Herschel seems to have caused a lot of trouble. He suggested the small bodies orbiting between Mars and Jupiter - of which Ceres is one - should be called "asteroids". That word means "star-like"!!
Comment icon #35 Posted by Derek Willis on 10 March, 2016, 20:16
When was that done?
Comment icon #36 Posted by danielost on 10 March, 2016, 20:17
when it became a dwarf planet.
Comment icon #37 Posted by Derek Willis on 10 March, 2016, 20:35
Oh, I see. You are not saying Ceres was returned to planetary status - meaning it is a fully-fledged planet - you are saying it was upgraded from an asteroid into a dwarf planet.
Comment icon #38 Posted by danielost on 10 March, 2016, 21:54
except thar i see dwarf p[lanets as full-flegded planets. the only reason it became an issue is the aiu didn't want to force school kids to remember 100+- dwarf planet names. if they weren't real planets they would have kept the small body designation like astroids and comets. that by the way is a number
Comment icon #39 Posted by Derek Willis on 10 March, 2016, 22:33
I suppose what irks people is that out of the (in 2006) 11,000 or so members of the International Astronomical Union only about 400 got to vote, and out of them less than 250 decided Pluto should be re-designated. That is not to say the decision was wrong, but only 2.5% in favor is hardly democratic.
Comment icon #40 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf on 11 March, 2016, 22:25
I've got news for you Daniel, except for Pluto which never had one, the rest of the dwarf planets (including Ceres) HAVE kept their minor planet designations.

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