Some scientists seek to revive Pluto's status as a planet

Posted March 23, 2017

Giving this age-old scientific and astronomic debate a new twist and fresh angle, a team of scientists, led by Kirby Runyon from Johns Hopkins University has filed a lawsuit. Pluto had been considered the ninth planet since its discovery in 1930 until 2006, when the International Astronomical Union redefined it after discovering many larger bodies of similar composition orbiting farther out in the solar system.In light of these discoveries Pluto was reclassified as a dwarf planet.

Perhaps we will now see a dichotomy between how astronomers and geologists define a planet as Runyon's proposal is more useful to planetary scientists and as many are closely affiliated with geology and other geosciences, this new geophysical definition is more useful in these fields than the IAU's astronomical definition. Professor Mike Brown of Caltech ended Pluto's planetary status in 2006.

The Solar System could have way more than just eight planets according to recently proposed criteria. Even more, he says that a host of moons (including Europa and the Moon) and other bodies (like these guys here) in the Solar System should be planets, too. Dwarf planets like Pluto and Eris, moons like Ganymede and Titan (satellites of Jupiter and Saturn respectively that outsize Mercury, ) all the way down to mighty Mimas, a moon of Saturn with a smaller surface area than Spain, would all be included.

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Icy, rocky Pluto had been the smallest of the nine planets, its diameter under three-quarters that of the moon and almost a fifth of Earth. If that definition were to change it might include Pluto but also over a hundred new bodies that could fit the description including Earth's own moon.

There has been lot of arguments and debates related to accepting Pluto as a planet. Pluto was thus demoted to a "dwarf planet". 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.

The key differences between the IAU and Stern definitions is that Stern's planets do not need to orbit a star, nor do they need to "clear their neighborhood".

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

Would having a 102 "new" planets stimulate interest in Solar System exploration?

"If you're interested in the actual intrinsic properties of a world, then the IAU definition is worthless", Runyon told Reuters.

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The other authors are Kelsi Singer of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado; Tod Lauer of the National Optical Astronomy Observatory in Tucson, Arizona; Will Grundy of the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona; Michael Summers of George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia.