WHAT’S BEING CLAIMED:
- Pluto was downgraded to the status of “dwarf planet” in 2006 by the International Astronomical Union (IAU).
- Scientists now say that IAU should rethink its definition of a planet.
- A recent study reveals that Pluto has other properties that could constitute it as a planet.
Back in 2006, Pluto’s planet status was downgraded to “dwarf planet,” a decision made by the International Astronomical Union (IAU). However, a new study published in the journal Icarus, says that Pluto should be reclassified as a planet.
A planetary scientist at the University of Central Florida and lead author of the study, Philip Metzger, argues that the reasoning behind Pluto’s loss of its status is invalid.
Kirby Runyon of Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute, and Mark Sykes of the Planetary Science Institute co-authored the study.
IAU’s definition of a planet is a celestial body that “has cleared the neighborhood around its orbit.” This means that in its orbit, a celestial body must be the largest gravitational force.
Researchers note that Pluto’s gravity is influenced by the planet Neptune. Pluto also shares its orbit with other objects such as frozen gases in the Kuiper belt.
Metzger said in a statement, “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.”
He believes that the IAU needs to rethink their definition of what constitutes a planet.
The scientist said that the definition shouldn’t be based on properties like the dynamics of a celestial body’s orbit, which can change. It should instead be based on its intrinsic properties.
When a celestial body is large enough, its gravity will allow it to become spherical in shape. Metzger recommends that the classification of planets be based on this.
He said, “It turns out this is an important milestone in the evolution of a planetary body, because apparently when it happens, it initiates active geology in the body.”
When considering Pluto, Metzger notes that it has organic compounds, an underground ocean, an atmosphere with multiple layers, and evidence that suggests that it once had lakes. Pluto also has multiple moons.
The IAU said that it has not yet received a formal proposal to change its definition of what constitutes a planet.
A spokesman of the IAU said, “There is a very clear, and known, way to table motions in the IAU, which is to propose an IAU Resolution through the relevant Working Group(s) and Division. So far, no such Resolutions have been proposed.”
Source: Fox News