Is Pluto A Planet? New Info Adds To The Decade-Long Debate
Scientists have spent 12 years arguing over how to classify Pluto. A recently published paper offers a new reason for restoring Pluto’s planetary status.
The new info doesn’t just focus on qualities of the celestial bodies themselves. It points to the past 200 years of scientific literature. Four scientists trawled through astronomy papers published since 1802. They’re looking for instances of the word ‘planet‘. They scanned for instances of the word where it was defined by the controversial 2006 verdict that reclassified Pluto as a dwarf planet. That group is responsible for handling astronomical verbiage. (They’re the folks who decide what to call any new objects that are found Up There). The definition included the requirement that planets “clear” their orbit, making them the gravitational big shots in their neighborhoods.
The scientists now have a list of over 100 recent examples of planetary scientists using the word ‘planet’ in a way that violates the IAU definition. But they say they are doing it because it’s functionally useful. The new research focuses on how scientists over the past two centuries have discussed ‘asteroids’. This term was used interchangeably with “small planets” or even just “planets” up until the early 1950s.
So…it’s been 12 years since Pluto became NOT a planet. It that makes sense. And now it looks like it may be on its way to re-joining the Big 9 of our Solar System! Welcome back, Pluto!