A group of scientists are lobbying to restore Pluto's planetary status

Posted March 23, 2017

New Horizons mission to Pluto was initiated in association with NASA and a team of authors of science team members.

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. A newer, more accurate definition of what is and what is not a planet is needed.

Stern points out several flaws in the IAU definition: it doesn't include "rogue planets" with no star to orbit, it requires planets to "clear their neighborhoods", which is impossible to do entirely since small objects are constantly entering and exiting planetary orbits, and it excludes dwarf planets while allowing radically different bodies like Mercury and Jupiter to enjoy planetary status.

Following this guidelines, Kirby Runyon claimed that Pluto meets the third criteria of the list and hence it must be promoted again to the status of the planet. Pluto's surface comprises everything that can be associated with the surface of a planet.

"There's a teachable moment here for the public in terms of scientific literacy and in terms of how scientists do science", Runyon added.

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.

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The visual simulation, posted to Reddit by user Nobillitie, shows the orbits of all eight planets in our Solar System - Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune - as well as thousands of dwarf planets beyond. 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.

"A planet 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 proposal elaborates, noting that the Earth's moon would constitute as a planet under the new definition. He adds that people, including him, are worked up over it. Pluto was demoted from being a planet to a "dwarf planet" by the International Astronomical Union (IAU).

Otherwise Pluto does fit the IAU definition - it orbits the sun and it is massive enough that the forces of gravity have made it round.

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

That expansion is part of the appeal of the new definition, Runyon says. Majority are closely affiliated with geology and other geosciences, thus making the new geophysical definition more useful than the IAU's astronomical definition, they said.