NASA Chief Says Pluto Is A Planet, Reigniting Decade-Long Row
The underdog of our universe is rising up: Pluto is a planet again.
That’s according to NASA’s administrator Jim Bridenstine, who weighed in on the historic debate over whether the small cosmic body deserves planetary status.
Pluto is considered to be a ‘dwarf planet’ – but Bridenstine supports its position as a fully-fledged component of our solar system.
During a FIRST robotics event in Colorado last Friday (August 23), Bridenstein said:
Just so you know, in my view, Pluto is a planet. You can write that the NASA administrator declared Pluto planet once again. I’m sticking by that, it’s the way I learned it and I’m committed to it.
Meteorologist Cory Reppenhagen of 9News caught the declaration on video, and while it’s clearly made with humour, its roots are deep in astronomical debate.
In 2006, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) took a vote on Pluto and subsequently stripped it of its planetary status.
According to the IAU, ‘planethood’ demands that an object have a nearly round shape, it must orbit the sun and ‘clear its orbital neighbourhood’ – the union decided Pluto didn’t satisfy the criteria, Space.com reports.
The poor runt of our solar system was discovered in 1930 by Clyde Tombaugh. It wasn’t until the 1990s that scientists began to question its position as our ninth planet, and by 2005, when NASA discovered Eris – a distant cosmic object larger than Pluto – pressure grew for a vote.
But the decision wasn’t necessarily a popular one. In April this year, the Philosophical Society of Washington hosted a friendly debate on the topic – and came down in favour of reinstating its status.
One person at the heart of Pluto’s defence is Alan Stern. He was the principal investigator of NASA’s New Horizons mission, which flew by Pluto in 2015. It afforded a glimpse of the planet, full of large mountains and nitrogen-ice plains.
Stern’s argument is the IAU’s decision was a result of wanting to keep the number of ‘official’ planets at a manageable level.
Space is unfathomably ginormous – I’m sure there’s plenty of room for Pluto to rejoin our solar system ensemble.
If you have a story you want to tell send it to UNILAD via [email protected]
CreditsCory Reppenhagen/Twitter and 1 other