NASA scientist Alan Stern wants to make Pluto a planet again. He’s the lead investigator on the New Horizon’s Mission, a flyby study of Pluto in 2015. That same year he publically called the planet’s demotion bullshit. Now that he’s proposed that the International Astronomical Union (IAU) change how they define planet altogether, you might be the one calling bullshit. Because if his proposal goes through, you’ll have a lot of new space books (and textbooks) to buy. Thanks, science.
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 proposal states. You can try making sense of that definition, but that’s like trying to understand why Pluto the dog’s owner is a talking mouse who’s always wearing gloves. Still, Stern and his team argue that the current criteria is too narrow and requires planets to orbit the sun as well as “zone clearing, which no planet in our solar system can satisfy since new small bodies are constantly injected into planet-crossing orbits.”
Simply put, Pluto should be a planet because there’s no other word that describes it better than that. According to the proposal, categorizing Pluto as a non-planet implies that it’s not interesting and doesn’t warrant scientific exploration. And yet this new definition would also make the earth’s moon a planet, and you already know that’s not just a bunch of cheese. So goodbye Goodnight Moon and hello Goodnight Sub-Stellar Mass.
[H/T] USA Today