A group of NASA scientists has proposed a new definition of what constitutes as a planet, possibly opening the door for Pluto to return to its former status.
First discovered and classified as a planet in 1930, Pluto had its planetary status dragged out from under its cosmic feet in 2006 because there appeared to be other objects like Pluto beyond the eighth planet (Neptune.) Pluto was thus demoted to a “dwarf planet.”
The demotion of the planet is quite simply “bulls***,” Alan Stern, principal investigator of NASA’s New Horizons mission to Pluto told Business Insider in 2015.
And two years later, Stern and his colleagues are not backing down from that belief, Gizmodo reports. In a proposal sent to the International Astronomical Union (IAU) for approval, the team suggests that a new definition of a planet, that is more in line with “scientific classification and peoples’ intuition.”
“In the mind of the public, the word ‘planet’ carries a significance lacking in other words used to describe planetary bodies,” the proposal states. “In the decade following the supposed ‘demotion’ of Pluto by the International Astronomical Union, many members of the public, in our experience, assume that alleged ‘non-planets’ cease to be interesting enough to warrant scientific exploration.”
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SOURCE: USA Today, Mary Bowerman