NASA Chief Reignites Decade-Long Row By Saying Pluto Is A Planet

NASA Chief Reignites Decade-Long Row By Saying Pluto Is A Planet

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NASA’s administrator Jim Bridenstine weighed in on the historic debate whether Pluto’s small cosmic body deserves planetary status – and according to him – Pluto is a planet.

Pluto is considered to be a ‘dwarf planet’ – but Bridenstine supports its position as a fully-fledged component of our solar system.

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During a FIRST robotics event in Colorado on August 23, Bridenstein said:

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Just so you know, in my view, Pluto is a planet. You can write that the NASA administrator declared Pluto planet once again. I’m sticking by that, it’s the way I learned it and I’m committed to it.

Meteorologist Cory Reppenhagen of 9News was at the event and recorded the declaration on video, and while it’s clearly made with humor, its roots are deep in astronomical debate.

In 2006, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) took a vote on Pluto and subsequently stripped it of its planetary status.

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According to the International Astronomical Union, ‘planet-hood’ demands that an object have a nearly round shape, it must orbit the sun and ‘clear its orbital neighborhood’ – the union decided Pluto didn’t satisfy the criteria, Space.com reports.

Pluto was discovered in 1930 by Clyde Tombaugh. It wasn’t until the 1990s that scientists began to question its position as our ninth planet, and by 2005, when NASA discovered Eris – a distant cosmic object larger than Pluto – pressure grew for a vote.

But the decision wasn’t necessarily a popular one. In April this year, the Philosophical Society of Washington hosted a friendly debate on the topic – and came down in favour of reinstating its status.

A key person at the heart of Pluto’s defense is Alan Stern. He was the principal investigator of NASA’s New Horizons mission, which flew by Pluto in 2015. It afforded a glimpse of the planet, full of large mountains and nitrogen-ice plains.

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Stern’s contention is the IAU’s decision was a result of wanting to keep the number of ‘official’ planets at a manageable level.

Space is unfathomably ginormous – I’m sure there’s plenty of room for Pluto to rejoin our solar system ensemble.

Photos: Google images