Speed Reads

don't disrespect pluto like that

Some scientists are calling their colleagues 'insensitive' for erasing Pluto from the solar system

The "insensitive" erasure of Pluto has caused a new rift in the scientific community.

This week's issue of the Planetary Exploration Newsletter contained a strongly-worded open letter from a group of scientists defending Pluto's honor, reports LiveScience. The signatories argue that their colleagues should respect the former planet despite its fall from astronomical grace.

Not everyone was on board when the International Astronomical Union demoted Pluto to "dwarf planet" status in 2006, so it's just pouring sodium chloride in the wound when scientists use terminology that make the demotion sound like incontrovertible fact, the scientists said. The latest offending phrase is "Planet 9," which some researchers use to refer to the outer limits of the solar system, which remains mysterious and unexplored.

"We the undersigned believe the use of the term 'Planet 9' for objects beyond Pluto is insensitive to Professor Tombaugh's legacy," wrote the nearly three dozen scientists, referring to astronomer Clyde Tombaugh, who discovered Pluto's existence in 1930. "We further believe the use of this term should be discontinued in favor of culturally and taxonomically neutral terms for such planets, such as Planet X, Planet Next, or Giant Planet Five."

The dwarf planet's defenders noted that the reclassification was — and remains — controversial, and they illuminated one very important point: that Pluto may be gone from our science textbooks, but it is never gone from our hearts.