Scientists Lobbying To Restore Pluto As A Planet

Scientists Lobbying To Restore Pluto As A Planet

Scientists Lobbying To Restore Pluto As A Planet

"The atmospheric haze on Pluto was a spectacular surprise", says NASA New Horizons mission scientist Andrew Cheng, a physicist at Johns Hopkins University.

A team of scientists seeking to restore Pluto to planethood launched a campaign on Tuesday to broaden the astronomical classifications which led to its demotion to a "dwarf planet" a decade ago.

Stern and his colleagues note that the IAU's definition of a planet is too narrow and recognizes planets only as objects that orbit our sun and "requires zone clearing, which no planet in our solar system can satisfy since new small bodies are constantly injected into planet-crossing orbits".

No matter what anyone says, Pluto is a planet, according to Kirby Runyon. Should the definition be adopted, Pluto, Earth's moon and more than 100 other celestial bodies would suddenly be eligible for planetary status.

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"[Pluto has] everything going on on its surface that you associate with a planet", Runyon said in a statement. Pluto is a rocky celestial object and was the smallest of the nine planets when it still had the status. After having been discovered by Clyde Tombaugh in the year 1930, this was one of the biggest changes done to the manner in which the body was recognised by the scientific community.

In a recent guesting on "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert", DeGrasse Tyson admitted to being in the group who made a decision to demote Pluto into a "dwarf planet" based on it not meeting the IAU's third criterion. In 2015, New Horizon mission launched a spacecraft which was first one to fly nearby and around to Pluto, passing within 8000 miles and had send the first close up pictures of the surface of Pluto.

At present, a planet is defined by the International Astronomical Union (IAU) as an object that orbits a star, is rounded by its own gravity, is not massive enough to create thermonuclear fusion (which excludes stars that orbit other stars) and has cleared its orbit of planetesimals.

This definition differs from the three-element IAU definition in that it makes no reference to the celestial body's surroundings.

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That expansion is part of the appeal of the new definition, Runyon says.

Astronomers "may find the IAU definition perfectly useful", but "our geophysical definition is more useful for planetary geoscience practitioners, educators and students".

"In keeping with both sound scientific classification and people's intuition, we proposed a geophysically-based definition of "planet" that importantly emphasizes a body's intrinsic physical properties over its extrinsic orbital properties", they write.

Additional authors of the paper are from the Southwest Research Institute, the National Optical Astronomy Observatory, the Lowell Observatory, and George Mason University.

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