A long time ago, astronomers decided to demote Pluto from the list of planets. The time I am talking about is before the era of Instagram and Snapchat, even iPhones…. However, still scientist debate on whether Pluto is a planet? What is this fuss all about? Let’s dig in and find out. After all, the fate of classification of our planets in our Solar System is at stake.
Missing Consensus of Scientific
Pluto was disqualified from planethood on the grounds that it was too small to clear debris in the vicinity in space. Now, you might be thinking what kind of explanation is this? Well, this is exactly what the International Astronomical Union concluded after a meeting on August 24, 2006. But, still, there are a number of people who don’t agree with this. Partially because of hundreds of asteroids which zip past our planet and threaten us; even the mightier Earth is also not able to clear the mess caused by these nearby rocks.
As advocated by a section of the scientific community, we need to set the exact parameters to define a “planet.” For this, let us have a look at the literature to know about the working pattern of science and scientist on the matter. This is how things go. First, the scientist submits the discovery made by him to the journal. Their other scientists review the work before it gets published. Papers are changed drastically at this step – sometimes even not given permission to publish. This “peer review” is the fundamental process of paper publication which has been going on for centuries.
Now, here is the shocker. According to the literature review about planets which dates all the way back to 1802, only a single paper claims that the planet needs to have a clear orbit. And later this methodology was discredited too!
After the images and data sent by the NASA’s New Horizon spacecraft, we are convinced enough to think differently on the issue of Pluto. The spacecraft has spotted the signs of ancient lakes, underground water pools and even some building blocks of life – organic compounds on the surface.
In fact, Philip Metzger, planetary scientist at the University of Central Florida believes “It [Pluto] is more dynamic and alive than Mars.” Even Alan Stern, the principal investigator of New Horizon has been a long-time advocate of declaring Pluto a planet. Sometime back, he along with his post-doctoral researcher Kriby Runyon authored an article in Astronomy stating that more flexibility should be given while defining a planet. Meanwhile, a significant portion of the scientific community has been running a media campaign to reconsider the 2006 definition of IAU.
This group believes that a planet should be defined as a round object which never underwent a nuclear fusion. Stern and Runyon wrote “At least 119 peer-reviewed papers in professional, scientific journals implicitly use this definition when they refer to round worlds (including moons) as planets. The publication history for these papers spans decades, hailing from both before and after the 2006 IAU vote.”
It is quite difficult to predict what will happen next. But one thing is for sure – after a little more than a decade, there is no way in the near future that this debate is going to slow down rather with scientific advancement, this debate is getting louder and more forceful. The end decision of scientist is definitely going to have major implications. According to the new definition (which is still debatable), there will no longer be eight planets in our solar system. Don’t get too excited too soon, there won’t be nine either. Rather under this definition, there would be more than 100 planets in our solar system. So, to all the Pluto lovers, here’s the harsh reality: If you want back the planethood for Pluto, be ready to deal with the hundreds of siblings of it.