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The Demotion of Pluto Planet

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For about the past seven and a half decades, Pluto was deemed the highest liked planet from many around the world. On Aug 24th 2006 Pluto had officially been demoted as no longer a planet in the solar system. Despite the heated debated between astronomers and the public trying to save their beloved planet, it is unfortunate that the new definition of a planet was too much for Pluto to handle. It was in 1930 when Clyde Tombaugh had discovered Pluto as the 9th planet, however since its discovery, astronomers had been discovering objects beyond Neptune that were the same size as Pluto (Britt 2006). These similar objects seem to have relatively the same oblong orbital path as Pluto, which orbits significantly above or below the central solar system plane in which the rest of the 8 planets orbit (Long 2008). A number of astronomers believed that it was a mistake to call Pluto a planet and would rather demote it to a minor planet or dwarf planet. Others were opposed to demoting it due to cultural and historical reasons, however, keeping the planet would have required renaming many other Pluto like objects in the solar system (Britt 2006).

The sources that I have used to research this controversy have been very easy to find, as the demotion of Pluto has been a hot topic for the past few years. There are an abundance of articles all over the web discussing the heated debate of the Pluto controversy. I decided to use a variety of sources to present my findings. The sources that I choose to use are articles from the web; space.com, articles from a journal; the Young Scientist Journal, and an article from the Wall Street newspaper

in New York. When doing my searches, the terms I employed were mainly, "the demotion of Pluto", "Pluto controversy", "the Pluto Debate", and "Pluto a dwarf planet." The time frame that I focused on was primarily articles written in summer of 2006 and onwards, when the talk of the possible demotion of Pluto had been instigated.

On August 14th, 2006, space.com posted an article titled: Pluto's Fate to be Decided by Scientific and Simple Planet Definition. Author Robert Roy Britt stated that a new scientific definition to define a planet would soon be released by the IAU (International Astronomical Union). The new definition would define planets from other small "planet like" objects in space. The voting for the new definition took place in a 12-day general assembly meeting in Prague. Richard Binzel (MIT planetary scientist) stated that according to the definition, Pluto would either be in or out of the solar system. Owen Gingerich, an historian and astronomer from Harvard had stated that Pluto might not lose its planet status, however just get divided up among the rest. The planets would be divided up as Terrestrial (Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars), Giant planets (Jupiter, Uranus and Neptune), and lastly the dwarf planets which would consist of Pluto and possibly its moon Charon (Britt 2006).

On August 18th, 2006, Robert Roy Britt wrote another article titled: Pluto May Get Demoted After All. The attempt to define the term planet wasn't as easy as prospected. Two proposals were brought into the IAU meeting in Prague regarding

the heated debate over Pluto's status in the solar system. One proposal had stated to demote Pluto to a "dwarf planet," which ultimately means that Pluto is not considered a real planet. Many officials of the IAU were opposed to this proposal because that would mean defining many other small objects, such as Pluto's moon Charon, in the solar systems as dwarf planets, which would then eventually turn 8 planets into hundreds. The second definition that was proposed was that a planet must be the largest body in its population of bodies. Pluto and Charon are not larger than many objects in the Kuiper belt of rocks, and therefore would not be considered a planet. However, the IAU is willing to call Pluto a dwarf planet using the same terminology to describe small stars. "Brown dwarfs" is a term used to describe low mass stars that do not produce thermonuclear fusion that is used to power real stars. The groups of officials were quite pleased with this definition for Pluto however more than half of the officials there were still rooting for Pluto to remain a planet (Britt 2006).

On Aug 24th, 2006 space.com announced: Pluto Demoted: No Longer a Planet in Highly Controversial

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