Is it time to restore Pluto's planetary status?

Alicia Guzman
March 23, 2017

This NASA's photo of Pluto was made from four images from New Horizons' Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) combined with color data from the Ralph instrument in this enhanced color global view released on July 24, 2015.

In a recent guesting on "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert", DeGrasse Tyson admitted to being in the group who chose to demote Pluto into a "dwarf planet" based on it not meeting the IAU's third criterion.

A team of researchers at Johns Hopkins University in Maryland, United States, have presented a paper lobbying to restore Pluto's planetary status, the varsity's news center "The Hub" reported.

The year 2006 was a particularly eventful year in the astronomical and planetary science community as Pluto was relegated to the "non-planet" status thus bringing the total count of the number of planets in our solar system to 8.

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Ignoring his own advice by risking another shouting match, Runyon will be attending the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in The Woodlands, Texas, on March 21, to take part in contesting the IAU's definition in a poster session.

Haze particles from the dwarf planet's atmosphere settle onto all of Pluto's surfaces.

Runyon, in his paper also claims that is Europa - the moon of Jupiter and so is the Earth's Moon as well as more than 100 other celestial bodies in our solar system that are also meet the necessary criteria of this status under the current characterization of "planet".

All the authors were scientists on the New Horizons mission to Pluto, which the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory operated for NASA.

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The new definition proposed by Stern is "a sub-stellar mass body that has never undergone nuclear fusion and that has sufficient self-gravitation to assume a spheroidal shape adequately described by a triaxial ellipsoid regardless of its orbital parameters".

The new definition differs from the three-element IAU definition in that it makes no reference to the celestial body's surroundings. It stated that planets are round objects that orbit our sun and are big enough to clear the neighborhood around its orbit. The proposed new geophysical definition omits stars, black holes, asteroids and meteorites, but includes much of everything else in our solar system.

Please Wait while comments are loading. The decision left the solar system with eight planets.

"If you're interested in the actual intrinsic properties of a world, then the IAU definition is worthless", Runyon told Reuters. The very word "planet" seems to carry a "psychological weight", he adds, so more planets could help pique public curiosity and instill a yearning for exploration in people. "I want the public to fall in love with planetary exploration as I have", said Runyon.

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