Hope for Pluto

Pluto holds uncertain fortunes: planet or dwarf plantet?

Amaya Mikolic-Berrios ‘21
EE News Editor

Most students currently in school would agree that Pluto is not a planet. This simple idea has been taught since the dwarf planet was demoted from a planet in 2006. Although weak attempts have been made to regain Pluto’s planetary status, none of them were of much gravity. However, on September 13, a University of Central Florida professor proposed a shocking notion that may give Pluto another chance at being a planet.

According UCF professor Philip Metzger, as reported in the Orlando Sentinel, there are hundreds of planets in our solar system. He and several coworkers labored through over two centuries of planetary science reports in an effort to unearth exactly why and when the definition of a planet had been altered.

When the International Astronomical Union voted on its definition of a planet, the criteria came entirely out of the blue. As many students are familiar with, the IAU’s measure of whether a celestial body qualifies as a planet is split into three parts: the body must orbit the sun, have a nearly spherical structure, and be the only celestial body in its orbit. The last point, which was the cause for Pluto’s demotion, is what many scientists since the IAU’s decision have disagreed with.

Historically, there has been only one found scientific publication that presented this theory, and the reasoning behind it had since been confuted. Furthermore, the process through which the IAU came to its controversial verdict has been viewed as unscientific. The typical way in which scientific theories are presented, disproven, and confirmed is through peer review, debates, and developed conclusions. In this way, bias can be nearly eliminated, something that is not true of a vote.

Scientists like Metzger believe that the third part of the definition of a planet should be eliminated completely. What would remain is a definition that has generally been agreed upon throughout history and would qualify hundreds of more celestial bodies as planets.

However, the reputability of the IAU makes the chance of a name change for Pluto slight. As the momentum of this movement increases, there is a possibility that a growing amount of scientists will support the cause to bring Pluto back into the spotlight. Nonetheless, the general acceptance of the IAU’s definition leads to the unlikelihood of Pluto’s situation being changed.

Although the IAU is not likely to change its ruling anytime soon due to the stance most respected scientists have taken, this is the first time a suggestion that Pluto should be renamed as a planet has been taken seriously.

Professor Metzger’s research and reasoning have been spread through all types of publications, from the scientific journal Icarus to CNN. Though Pluto’s future still looks dim, there is a hope that claims of the unscientific process in which was wrongfully relegated will lead to a better investigation on the topic.

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