Scientists urge Pluto be reinstated as planet — Analysis

The current definition of a “planet” is rooted in folklore and astrology, and must be dropped due to not meeting the needs of modern astronomy, a new study states, opening the doors for the Pluto comeback.

Pluto was first discovered within the Kuiper belt (ring of planets beyond Neptune’s orbit) in 1930. It was then declared to be the ninth and most important planet in our Solar System.

Its status was however questioned when several objects similar in size were discovered within the Kuiper Belt. The International Astronomical Union eventually downgraded Pluto to “dwarf planet”In 2006.

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The new definition of a “against” stated that it was. “planet”The IAU adopted the following criteria: A celestial body must orbit the Sun and have a near-round shape. It also has to be gravitationally dominant.

Pluto was disqualified due to its orbit crossing that of Neptune, and its orbital vicinity with other Kuiper Belt objects.

Rule requiring a planet’s orbit to be cleared “was really developed post facto to keep an orderly, small number of planets,”Philip Metzger of the Florida Space Institute at University of Central Florida, (UCF), stated.

The idea that only a few planets should exist is not based on science. It comes from folklore as well as astrology.

Metzger and his colleagues studied the vast majority of the planetary literature in the last 400 years. The results were then published in Icarus, the astronomical journal.

The paper is entitled ‘Moons are planets,’ the definition introduced by Galileo in the 1600s – that a planet only needed be a geologically active body in space – had been used by scientists throughout much of history and only eroded in the 20th century.

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This occurred between the 1910s to 1950s when there was less planetary science papers and more publications, Metzger said to UCF Today.

“There were enough almanacs being sold in England and in the US that every household could get one copy every year.”

Those almanacs provided its readers with a whole range of information – from calendars of astronomical events to cooking recipes and fiction. However, there was also a strong emphasis on Astrology. For example, astrological forecasts can only ever be made when there is a small number of planets.

“This was a key period in history, when the public accepted that the Earth orbits the Sun instead of the other way around, and they combined this great scientific insight with a definition of planets that came from astrology,” Metzger said.

And those views that moons and satellites shouldn’t be considered planets then made their way into scientific literature. But this definition doesn’t work anymore as astronomy relies on advanced technology that allows it to study space much more thoroughly, he added.

“There’s an explosion in the number of exoplanets that we’ve discovered over the last 10 years, and that’s only going to increase as we put better telescopes in space.”

“We need to fix this [the definition of a ‘planet’]Before we move too far with the exoplanet revolution, it is important to get this done now. We want to be doing excellent science because this great influx of data is making it vastly more important to define our new discoveries correctly.”

Metzger and his colleagues are pushing for the return to Galileo’s definition, and if their call is heard Pluto will become a planet again, with numerous other celestial bodies joining it.



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