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Whether Pluto is a planet or not: all worlds are worth investigating
23 March 2017, 01:46 | Candice Butler
A group of scientists are lobbying to restore Pluto's planetary status
It is claimed that after the acceptance of this definition, numerous unidentified objects revolving the solar system would be termed as planets. Back in 2006 that all changed, when Pluto was demoted from being labeled a proper planet to its new classification as a dwarf planet, leaving just eight true planets in our celestial neighborhood.
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. Researchers also said the current definition would unfairly exclude a hypothetical Earth-sized object in the outer solar system's Kuiper Belt.
According to the International Astronomical Union (IAU), a planet is a celestial body (a natural body outside the Earth's atmosphere) that is in orbit around the sun, has sufficient mass that its gravity pulls it into an nearly round shape, and has cleared the neighbourhood around its orbit. Rather than focusing on "external" factors such as whether a body has cleared its orbit (the portion of the IAU criteria that Pluto failed in 2006), the new geophysical definition instead brings to the forefront the intrinsic properties of the body itself. That would require learning a very long mnemonic sentence indeed. However Kirby Runyon is trying hard to provide a more subtle and precise definition of a planet which would not only gain Pluto its previous positions as a Plane but to all the 100 unidentified bodies and objects in the asteroid belt including Europa which is considered to be the moon of Jupiter as a Planet.
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.
"First, it recognizes as planets only those objects orbiting our Sun, not those orbiting other stars or orbiting freely in the galaxy as rogue planets", the researchers explained. Runyon is leading a group of six astronomers from five institutions and has drafted a new definition of "planet", and a justification for that definition. Most planetary scientists are also generally trained as geoscientists more than astrologists, so a geophysical definition might suit them better than the old classification.
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