16 years ago Pluto stopped being a planet. Because? And can this change?

The solar system today consists of eight planets, but 16 years ago there were nine. No stars were (as far as we know) destroyed during this period, but Pluto, the ninth and until then smallest planet in the solar system, was demoted and is now considered a “dwarf planet”.

The decision was announced on August 24, 2006, exactly 16 years ago by the International Astronomical Union (IAU) and was quite controversial. The measurement, which was not created specifically for Pluto, changed the entire planet classification system. However, the smallest planet in our system has been the most well-known “victim” of the change.

At that time, the IAU had established three basic criteria for a star to be considered a planet. These questions began to be adopted around the world for this type of classification and it became necessary:

  • In orbit around the Sun
  • be a spherical shape
  • Be so big that its gravity pushes away any other nearby object of similar size

Well, as we had already imagined by the fate of Pluto, this “small” planet does not meet all these requirements. In reality, it hosts only two, but it is not gravitationally dominant, classifying it as a dwarf planet.

But remember I said the decision was controversial? It turns out that only 5% of astronomers worldwide voted for the classification, making the process quite controversial. Despite this, 16 years later we can say that the new nomenclature has been accepted, but not that Pluto has been forgotten.

The review of Pluto’s condition followed a series of discoveries of other nearby space objects. Among them is the dwarf planet Eris, which is about the same size as Pluto. The identification of the star in 2005 was one of the major astronomical events that contributed to Pluto’s retrograde.

Pluto in all its glory (Image: NASA)

Can Pluto become a planet again?

Well, even if the decision was “carried out”, to this day it is a matter of debate. A study from late last year claims that the decision to remove Pluto as the ninth planet from our solar system is “based on folklore, including astrology” and should therefore be reversed.

Researchers from the University of Florida (Central) argue, in an article published in the journal Icarus, that the definitions that make a planet a planet focus on the wrong factors and that the reasons for this are not justified from a scientific point of view. view. out of sight.

According to the study’s lead author, Phillip Metzger, the parameters were wrong, and the IAU should shift that paradigm to another detail that he says is far more important: whether the object in question is or was a geological asset. And Pluto fulfills this requirement.

Metzger bases his argument on the fact that new technologies are discovering more and more planets inside and outside our galaxy, so a more robust classification system will eventually be necessary: ​​”there is an explosion in the number of exoplanets we’ve discovered over the of the last few decades, and it will only increase as we put better telescopes in space. So we have a reason to create a better taxonomy, and we need to fix that before we move forward with these exoplanets. We want big science because this massive influx of data is far more important for us to properly define our findings.

Over the past five years, Metzger and his team have reviewed much of our planetary literature and found that the original definition of a planet—the one proposed by Galileo Galilei in the 16th century, where a planet is a geologically active body – has been forgotten. Over the years and between the 1910s and 1950s, astronomical studies shifted their focus from planets to other objects.

Discover the dwarf planet Pluto

Pluto was discovered in 1930 by astronomer Clyde Tombaugh, a member of the Lowell Observatory in the United States. The name of the dwarf planet was suggested by an eleven-year-old student from Oxford, England.

The asteroid’s orbit is not completely circular. This implies that the distance between Pluto and the Sun changes over time, and that the space object takes about 250 Earth years to complete a single revolution around the star.

Relative to Earth, Pluto is about 6 billion kilometers away. The dwarf planet is about 2,250 kilometers across, almost two-thirds the size of the Moon. Pluto has five natural satellites: Charon, Styx, Nyx, Kerberos and Hydra.

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