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Space & Astronomy

Should Pluto be classed as a planet again ?

September 9, 2018 | Comment icon 30 comments



We know a lot more about Pluto than we did when it was robbed of its planet status. Image Credit: NASA
Researchers have called into question the reasoning behind Pluto's demotion from planet to dwarf planet.
In order for a body to be classed as a planet under the current definition of the word, it must be in orbit around its parent star, it must be massive enough for its own gravity to make it round and it must have 'cleared its neighborhood' of smaller objects within its own orbit.

While Pluto succeeds in meeting the first two criteria, the third, which requires it to have sufficient mass to clear its orbital path of debris, has ultimately robbed it of its planetary status.

Now though, a team of researchers from the University of Central Florida has been working to abolish this third requirement on the basis that it is not supported by the scientific literature.

The only reference to the orbit-clearing requirement that they could find was in a publication from 1802 and it had already been rejected on the basis that its reasoning was invalid.

"The International Astronomical Union definition would say that the fundamental object of planetary science, the planet, is supposed to be a defined on the basis of a concept that nobody uses in their research," said study lead author Philip Metzger.
"It's a sloppy definition... They didn't say what they meant by clearing their orbit. If you take that literally, then there are no planets, because no planet clears its orbit."

The claim that this orbit-clearing requirement is a standard definition, therefore, may be false.

There is also the fact that Pluto, which was long expected to be a barren, featureless world, has since turned out to be one of the most geologically active and diverse places in the solar system.

"The only planet that has more complex geology is the Earth," said Metzger.

Whether the team's findings will have any effect on Pluto's planetary status however remains unclear.

Source: Science Alert | Comments (30)


Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #21 Posted by Noteverythingisaconspiracy 4 years ago
As are many satellite, discarded rocket stages and asteroids.  It's clearly not a very good definition.  
Comment icon #22 Posted by rashore 4 years ago
I'll always think of Pluto as a planet regardless of what the IAU classifies it as. Simply because I grew up knowing it as a planet. I'm sure there are some folks out there that have grown up knowing it as a dwarf planet that would still not think of it as a regular planet if the IAU classified it as a planet again. But then I'm just a layman with no skin in the game- so I think the IAU should classify Pluto however they like and that would be the correct classification for it. But even as a layman I know better than to use the random dictionary definition of planet to classify Pluto rather th... [More]
Comment icon #23 Posted by paperdoll 4 years ago
a celestial body is natural, not manmade.    
Comment icon #24 Posted by paperdoll 4 years ago
today's "scientists" have too much time on their hands.
Comment icon #25 Posted by Noteverythingisaconspiracy 4 years ago
It still means that by that definition asteroids and comets are planets too. Soo we don't have 8 or 9 planets, we have millions, possibly trillions. (By some accounts there might be trillions of comets in the Kuiper belt and Oort cloud)  Like Waspie_Dwarf told you in post #20 dictionary definitions aren't scientific.  
Comment icon #26 Posted by Astra. 4 years ago
Umm no, and that is a very silly statement. Without scientists what type of world would we be living in now? ...Technology and science has transformed our world at an incredible pace. It’s the foundation of pretty much everything that we have and see in our lives. It's also about the incredible knowledge that we've gained through these people concerning the important work that they indeed do.  Even so, you may enjoy this video...      
Comment icon #27 Posted by paperdoll 4 years ago
scientists of the past were actually discovering things. today's scientists just go back and try to discredit whatever they can to look useful. that video is quite a spin.
Comment icon #28 Posted by Astra. 4 years ago
Of course, hence here we are today. The first caveman who rubbed two sticks together that started a fire was also a scientist...he just didn't know it at the time.  I doubt that very much. If anything they've learnt from their predecessors as to improve on science and technology with even more innovative ideas. And it will continue.  I guess it is. 
Comment icon #29 Posted by TripGun 4 years ago
I think Pluto has what it takes. What do you guys think? Should we let'em in?
Comment icon #30 Posted by fred_mc 4 years ago
I think they have to draw a line somewhere between big and small planets. It will be too difficult for school children otherwise if they have to learn about hundreds of planets; Pluto, Ceres, Eris, Sedna etc.


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