Speed Reads

On second thought...

NASA scientists are pushing to make Pluto a planet again

Pluto might get a second chance at being a planet. A group of NASA scientists has submitted a request to the International Astronomical Union (IAU) to broaden the definition of what classifies as a planet. If the new definition were to win IAU's approval, Pluto — presently considered a "dwarf planet" — and 109 other space objects would become planets.

Pluto lost its planetary status in 2006 after the IAU voted in favor of a new, three-part definition of what it takes to be a planet. Pluto met two of the three criteria, as it orbits around the sun and has sufficient mass to maintain the round shape characteristic of planets. However, Pluto is just not big enough to clear other objects out of its orbital space, and thus it was downgraded from the planetary status it had held since 1930.

Alan Stern, head of NASA's New Horizons mission to Pluto and one of the scientists behind the new definition, has deemed Pluto's demotion "bulls--t." The scientists argue the definition determined in 2006 is too narrow, and suggest it should be expanded to include all "round objects in space that are smaller than stars." "In the mind of the public, the word 'planet' carries a significance lacking in other words used to describe planetary bodies," the proposal reads. "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."