A team of scientists is trying to regain the planet status of Pluto. They claim that the icy dwarf planet has wrongfully lost its planetary status. Apart from Pluto, they want to give the planet award to 100 other cosmic bodies in the solar system, including the moons of Jupiter and our moon.
In 2006, a new definition of planet was approved by the International Astronomical Union (IAU). This made Pluto lose its planet status, and the number of planets in the solar system changed from nine to eight. Many debates arose after this change and scientists split in two groups: those who agreed with the change and those who didn’t.
A new definition for planets
Kirby Runyon, scientist at Johns Hopkins University, is part of the latter group. Although Pluto was the smallest of the nine planets in the solar system, with a diameter measuring around three quarters of that of the moon, it still had all the necessary characteristics to classify as a planet. Thus, Runyon and his team devised a new definition for planets.
The new definition looks at the intrinsic properties of the cosmic body, not only the orbit or other external factors influencing it. Thus, they say that a planet is a sub-stellar body which was never involved in nuclear fusion. Also, the body needs to have enough gravitational heft so that it remains round-shaped.
This definition is different from the IAU one because it makes no reference to the surroundings. The former one required the planet and its satellites to be alone in their orbit. Previously, researchers argued that this would exclude Earth, Mars, Jupiter, and Neptune, too, as they share their orbits with asteroids.
The new description is more useful
Such a situation would be avoided with the new definition. It looks at the planets from a geophysical perspective, therefore it ignores stars, asteroids, or other elements in the planets’ surroundings. Also, it is not devised after the larger governing body around which the planets orbit. Thus, the number would increase from eight to 110.
Research brought a new argument in favor of the new definition. They said that it would be more useful to the planetary scientists. Most of them are actually affiliated with geology or other related sciences, therefore a geophysical definition would help them more than a purely astronomical one.
If the new definition gets approved, we might not only get our Pluto back, but also a multitude of other planets to study and explore.
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons