New Definition Of Planets Could Bring Pluto Back

Posted: Feb 21 2017, 6:11am CST | by , in News | Latest Science News

New Definition of Planets Could Bring Pluto Back

Pluto, our moon, and many other celestial bodies could be come planets if the new definition is adopted

NASA scientists have published a new document that puts forth a new definition of a planet and if the proposal gets widely adopted there would be a huge number of new planets added to our solar system. How many you wonder? How about over 100 new planets.

Among those new planets would be our moon and Pluto would make a comeback. The team behind the new definition wants to get one key thing approved to make all these changes happen, and that is that a planet doesn't need to be orbiting the sun to be a planet. The reason the team wants that significant change made is that they claim we don't need to be looking at a potential planets interaction with a star, rather its physical properties.

"In keeping with both sound scientific classification and peoples' intuition, we propose a geophysically-based definition of 'planet' that importantly emphasises a body's intrinsic physical properties over its extrinsic orbital properties," the researchers explain.

The team proposing the new definition is led by scientist Alan Stern, the principal investigator of the NASA New Horizons mission to Pluto. Pluto is perhaps the poster child for planetary definition changes. Pluto was a planet during most of our lifetimes, but was demoted to a dwarf planet in 2006. This change was made after another scientist proposed a definition change of what a planet is.

That current definition of what a planet is reads: "A celestial body that (a) is in orbit around the Sun, (b) has sufficient mass for its self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces so that it assumes a hydrostatic equilibrium (nearly round) shape, and (c) has cleared the neighbourhood around its orbit."

That current definition was proposed by an astronomer called Mike Brown from Caltech. Stern says, "Why would you listen to an astronomer about a planet?" Stern, a planetary scientist, says that listening to an astronomer about a planet is like going to a podiatrist for brain surgery.

"Even though they're both doctors, they have different expertise," Stern said. "You really should listen to planetary scientists that know something about this subject. When we look at an object like Pluto, we don't know what else to call it."

Stern and his team propose this definition: "A planet is a sub-stellar mass body that has never undergone nuclear fusion and that has sufficient self-gravitation to assume a spheroidal shape adequately described by a triaxial ellipsoid regardless of its orbital parameters."

The team says that this definition holds more merit than the current one and would make many moons in the solar system officially planets as well as returning Pluto to its former glory.

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/3" rel="author">Shane McGlaun</a>
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