Renowned astronomers David Grinspoon and Alan Stern have made the case to make Pluto a planet once again following data collection with the help of the New Horizons probe.
The decision to revoke planet status from Pluto was met with much chagrin from both members of the scientific community as well as from the general public at large who were dismayed at losing one of the planets that had been a part of our education for so long.
However, it appears that new geology data suggests that it may be prudent to make Pluto a planet again. In a Washington Post column, Grinspoon and Stern wrote that “The verdict to evaluate the planet’s concept differently and to dethrone Pluto from the planets list was profoundly defective, the decision was even questioned by the followers of similar activists.”
In reality, the decision to make Pluto a planet may be well-needed due to the fact that the decision to remove it as a planet was made by a small group of astronomers back in 2006 where the majority of attendees had different thoughts and opinions about what should happen with the small former-planet.
The fact that so many people were unsure whether we should continue to make Pluto a planet should have raised questions as to whether it made sense to change the status, but new evidence makes it even more clear that revoking the status may have been a mistake.
The problem comes in the way that these astronomers decided to define what a planet actually is. For example, they defined a planet as something that orbits around our sun which completely discounts the numerous exoplanets existing outside of our solar system.
Perhaps more bizarre is the fact that planets were defined by what was in their vicinity rather than the makeup of the planet itself. The case to make Pluto a planet may have solid ground if you look at just the planet itself – despite the fact that it doesn’t make the cut for having “thrown its weight around enough to eject all other nearby objects.”
Also worth noting is making the distinction between dwarf planet and planet is relatively unnecessary – almost seeming as if it was an effort to “demote” Pluto for an arbitrary reason and making it clear that it might be a good idea to make Pluto a planet in full status once again.
At a recent annual Lunar and Planetary Science Conference, a group of scientists made a presentation titled “A Geophysical Planet Definition” in which they made the case for deciding to make Pluto a planet once again and redefine more broadly what a planet actually is.
“In keeping with both sound scientific classification and peoples’ intuition, we propose a geophysically-based definition of ‘planet’ that importantly emphasizes a body’s intrinsic physical properties over its extrinsic orbital properties”
“A simple paraphrase of our planet definition — especially suitable for elementary school students — could be, ‘round objects in space that are smaller than stars.”
It remains to be seen whether the scientific community will decide to make Pluto a planet once again, but it’s clear that the decision to demote it in the first place may have been misguided. Those who bemoaned the loss of their favorite planet may soon have it back if Grinspoon and Stern have their way.