Could Pluto Become a Planet Again?

posted by Jim Forsyth - 

Pluto is poised for a comeback, Newsradio 1200 WOAI reports.

The planet was downgraded to a dwarf planet 12 years ago by a group of astronomers.

  That's been a thorn in the side of planetary scientists, who feel like they should be the ones to make those kind of decsions.

This week, a group that includes Alan Stern of the San Antonio-based Southwest Research Institute published a paper in the journal Icarus argues that the definition used by the International Astronomical Union to separate planets from dwarf planets is incorrect.

Not only should Pluto be a planet, he says so should the dozen or so more planets have have been discovered orbiting our sun.

"As a planetary scientist, we want to understand which objects are planets are which are not," Stern says. "And these small ones fit the professional definition."

He says the reason we all learned the names of the planets was because, at the time, there were only nine.  Now, there are many more, so naming them is less important.In 2006, the IAU argued that planets must be the largest gravitational force in its orbit.

  Pluto shares its orbit with frozen gases and objects.

Instead, this week's paper says a planet should be based on its intrinsic properties, as opposed to properties that can change, such as the dynamics of its orbit.

Pluto, they argue, has an underground ocean, a multilayer atmosphere, organic compounds, evidence of ancient lakes and multiple moons.

IMAGE: GETTY

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