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When Pluto a planet again? Informal Rate Offers Support After the panel discussion


Debate has raged about whether Pluto is considered a planet since it was described as a dwarf planet in 2006. Views of the world from New Horizons, NASA space vehicle in 2015, the complex issues. Here, New Horizons reflected icebergs 2 miles (3 kilometers) high on Pluto during a July 2015 flyby of the dwarf planet.

(Image: © NASA / JHUAPL / SwRI)

A friendly debate about Pluto planethood yesterday (April 29) finished in an unofficial vote that went in favor of restoring the status of dwarf planet.

Early in the morning Eastern time, after the broadcast Philosophical Society in Washington discussing earlier in the evening, Alan Stern – principal investigator of the mission New Horizons, Pluto inject – tweeted that his argument won the vote, Which was open to anyone who can access the web-PSW, even those who were not friends. The results showed 130 people voted in favor of the creation of the planet Pluto, and 30 were against. During the discussion, Stern argued for the use of geophysical definition define planethood. In short, it means that the planet must be massive enough these bodies to take a nearly round shape, but not massive enough to have a nuclear fusion in inter & # 39; EASURES (like a star).

related: Pluto direction: New Horizons, NASA's mission in pictures

But since 2006, the International Astronomical Union, submitted in disputes ex-president of IAU Ron Ekers, using a different definition for planethood, which excludes Pluto. This definition says a planet must orbit the Sun, must have almost circular shape and should be "He cleared the neighborhood around its orbit. "Historically, this is the third time that caused the most controversy among fans planethood of Pluto, given the number of asteroids orbiting near even large planets.

The debate over Pluto's planetary status increased after new horizons Mission flown dwarf planet in 2015, New Horizons revealed a world of surprises: big mountains, possible internal ocean and tenuous "exosphere" or a very thin atmosphere. Given the complex geology of Pluto, Stern and some other members of the astronomical community began to argue that Pluto should be designated as a planet again.

On the name of things

Controversy followed the points in detail and against Pluto be a planet. Presentation Ekers & # 39; focus on the history of the IAU, which was originally formed in 1919 to coordinate the clock and reports on the results of the release of a telegram, related to astronomy.

"The coordination of all the hours that are not science itself in the world, but if we do not do this, it makes the pursuit of hard science, it is a practical feature, the international trade unions should do," said Ekers.

In addition, in his opinion, the assignment category for planets also not science, but a way of describing a & # 39 objects, so that scientists can communicate. Other examples of this type of solutions include coordination Suzorye called & # 39; I am within, or description of species (eg, human or Homo sapiens) and certain of their birth name.

Pluto was discovered in 1930, on the background of the search of the planet, which was believed to cause disturbances in the orbit of Neptune, Ekers said. Pluto was too small to cause these disturbances, and later calculations showed that the first calculations of the orbit of Neptune were wrong. But it was happy to find, however. Miniature Pluto was closer to the Sun, at the moment in its orbit than it is now easier to find and telescopes available at the time.

It was not until six decades later that the other of the & # 39; objects that are close to the size of Pluto have been found in Kuiper belt, Province of ice on the & # 39 objects beyond Neptune. Then Mike Brown, an astronomer at the California Institute of Technology, led the opening of the & # 39 object called 2003 UB313, which is believed to be larger than Pluto. "Untitled can not be appointed [by the IAU] because there was no definition of a planet, "said Ekers. (Today, we know that the world is named Eris).

IAU begging the planetary system of the division to come up with the definition of a planet; gridlocked with experts, formed the IAU designation committee, which included both international representation and the people working inside and outside the planetary science (eg, historians and educators).

The Committee requested that the discussion will not be published, recognized Ekers, may have been a mistake, but he added that the media were invited (and current) on the basis of the decision, which made Pluto a dwarf planet.

The vote took place at a meeting in August 2006 IAU in Prague, which included the 424 voting members (of a total of 9000 members). Most of the votes were for Pluto to be renamed as a dwarf planetAlong with several other "transneptunian on & # 39 objects" found in the few years before the vote. A separate resolution, believing that small planet should be called a planet, failed by a wide margin, he added.

"This is not the voice of science," said Ekers. "Voting in MY about agreement on what you call things, and this is an important distinction."

Pluto & # 39 is in color, as the New Horizons scientists on the & # 39 four images are combined with long-range reconnaissance spacecraft Imager (Lori) with color data device Ralph to create this enhanced color global view. Spacecraft images were obtained at a distance of 280,000 miles (450,000 km).

(Image: © NASA / JHUAPL / SwRI)

Reasoning the examination

Stern then took the stage to set out what he saw as a problem with the voting IAU. He raised the question of examination committee determine the planet the IAU, arguing that had to be done to planetary scientists, "If, God forbid, someone here has been diagnosed with neurological problems, I hope you would go to a neurologist or orthopedist, or any other form of medical attention, because the experience is irrelevant. "

He presented a brief historical overview of the three "game changing", which with the & # 39 are fundamental to what he called "dwarf revolution of the planet": the discovery of the oceans to the & # 39 are common and on the other bodies of the solar system, the discovery of the Kuiper belt ice on the & # 39 objects, show that the solar system looked like at the beginning of its history and the discovery of small worlds like Pluto – the majority of which were not discovered until the beginning of the 21st century.

Visitors – perhaps aboard USS Enterprise from «Star Trek» – would look at Pluto, and say that they rotate around the planet, Stern said. "It has an atmosphere made of the same material as we breathe," he said. He brought his mountain ranges, glaciers, avalanches and "all the signs of planetary processes" can be seen on the surface.

related: Dramatic journey to Pluto, New Horizons revealed in new book

He also took to task Ekers on two points regarding the IAU. Stern claimed that the IAU deliberately designed the planetary definition, so it would be easier to remember the number of planets in the solar system – Ekers said that if Stern had heard that it was probably a joke made at the decision point. Stern also said that no planet may very clear its orbit of debris as it circles the sun, while Ekers argued that asteroids and comets that we see in resonance (orbits coincide) with planetary orbits.

Stern also claimed that further into the solar system, it is harder to remove small objects, because they move much slower in their orbits around the sun than do on & # 39; objects that are closer because of the nature of how the orbits of work. This means that the planet should be more widespread in the outer reaches of the solar system, to remove small items. Even the Earth will not be classified as a planet, if you have moved it to 100 Earth-Sun distance from the Sun – "It's easy to breed confusion," said Stern.

Stern and Ekers shook hands after discussion and shared questions and answers with the audience, in which they are further clarified its position. Although Pluto planethood status has not changed after a discussion, it makes with & # 39 are part of a broader set of research and issues that continue to – even almost 13 years after Pluto was appointed as a dwarf planet.

Follow Elizabeth Howell on Twitter @howellspace, Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and facebook.

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