Tag Archives: the sun

Pluto is back!

Alright, so maybe definitely crying that Pluto is back could be misleading — it hasn’t yet been voted back to official planet status. However, there’s a new argument stating that a “dwarf planet” is still a planet. It’s right there in the name, for crying out loud!

Back in 2006 the International Astronomical Union voted through a fraction of their members (who hadn’t left yet) to demote the ninth planet as it was smaller and less unique than other bodies in our solar system. They additionally decided not to vote again with the rest of the members present because they wanted to break for lunch.

Pluto isn't at the kid's table anymore. Graphic by Grace Higginbotham
Pluto isn’t at the kid’s table anymore. Graphic by Grace Higginbotham

Clearly, it was all very official — just like the scientific definition of a planet. The rule the IAU has officially claimed to make an astronomical body a planet has three parts:

1) The body must orbit the sun.

2) It has to be mostly spherical.

3) It should have gravitationally cleared out everything else from its orbital traffic lane.

Unfortunately, Pluto doesn’t have a clear road for its entire journey around the sun, thereby disqualifying it and several other large bodies in our solar system that might otherwise qualify as a planet.

Despite this failing on the littlest (former) planet’s part, several of these defining members of the IAU have recently begun to argue in favor of reinstating the planet’s status. The current nay-sayers are primarily holding out due to the precedent it sets for other large bodies presently orbiting our sun.

There is a concern that if Pluto is defined as a true planet, then with this new definition, there’ll soon be dozens, perhaps hundreds of other possible bodies that fit into planet status. If there were so many planets, how would the children be able to memorize all those names?

Yeah. That’s the argument. They want to keep the number of planets as low as possible to not inconvenience school children or their teachers. I suppose the current pneumonic, My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas, would get a lot of tack-ons and end up making no sense by the end with all those other astronomical bodies becoming included. Poor kids.