Wednesday, 20 March, 2019

Pluto should be reclassified as a planet, say experts

Explained Snippets 700+ teaching posts 18 for SCs none for STs where how many Pluto was erroneously rejected as a planet: Scientists
Cary Marshall | 13 September, 2018, 19:13

Now a team of scientists have found a way to possibly reinstate Pluto as Planet 9.

It's been 12 years since everyone's favourite dwarf planet Pluto officially lost planet status.

According to the IAU, a planet is a celestial body that "has cleared the neighborhood around its orbit", which means the planet is the largest gravitational force in its orbit. The IAU thought Pluto was too small to "clear the neighborhood", which refers to the ability to move other rocks out of its path as it orbits the sun, but many scientists disagree.

More than a decade after it was demoted, the debate over whether Pluto is a planet has been reignited by a new study. The IAU said that there were three conditions that must be fulfilled for a celestial body to be termed as a planet: 1) it must be round; 2) it must orbit the sun; and 3) it must have "cleared the neighbourhood" of its orbit. And it was based on reasoning that has since been disproven. This is when the International Astronomical Union (IAU) formalised the definition of a planet. Stars, asteroids, meteorites, black holes would still be ruled out, but that would up the number of so-called planets in our solar system from eight to-wait for it-110. "The IAU definition would say that the fundamental object of planetary science, the planet, is supposed to be a defined on the basis of a concept that nobody uses in their research", Metzger said.

According to Kirby Runyon, the IAU's definition was erroneous since their review showed that clearing an orbit has not been standard practice when attempting to distinguishing asteroids from planets - as the IAU did for the definition they adopted in 2006. He says that satellites such as Titan and Europa, were considered planets since Galileo.

Planetary scientist Philip Metzger from the Florida Space Institute, in a recent paper found that this method to qualify planets is not really supported in existing research literature. In fact, "the only planet that has more complex geology is the Earth".

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'We showed that this is a false historical claim, ' Runyon said. The researchers argue that intrinsic properties should be used to make the distinction, not things like orbit, which can change. Metzger added: "Dynamics are not constant, they are constantly changing ..."

Metzger says that a fundamental criterion to classifying a planet should be whether it's large enough to allow gravity to mold the object into a sphere. But it's hard to believe that a scientist focused on any of our other neighbors couldn't make a perfectly compelling reason for why it, rather than Pluto, deserves second-place billing - although Metzger judged Pluto as "more dynamic and alive than Mars".

"And that's not just an arbitrary definition", he said.

Maybe, sometime soon, the debate will be settled - and we can all go back to talking about the nine-planet solar system we learned about in school.

Modern observations, such as those performed by the New Horizons mission, revealed that Pluto has an active underground ocean, a multilayer atmosphere, organic compounds, and multiple moons.

The research is described in an article published August 29 in the journal Icarus.

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