Remember when Pluto used to be a plant? Eight years after its exile from the technical plants within our solar system, it might soon get a chance to reclaim its original spot.
In 1930, it was considered to be the ninth planet right after Neptune upon its discovery. However, in 1977 satellites showed that Pluto was not only small in size, it also was not the biggest plant in its orbit. This triggered a lot of scepticism as critics began to question its classification. The International Space Union conference emerged in 2006 and they outlined clearly defined requirements as to what constitutes as a plant.
The requirements are as follows:
1. It must orbit the sun.
2. It must be round (In scientific terms, it had to have enough mass to assume hydrostatic equilibrium).
3. It must be the biggest object in its orbit (Scientifically speaking, it must clear the neighbourhood around its orbit).
Although Pluto met the first two requirements, it failed to meet the third. Eris is a neighbouring planet and happens to be 27 percent bigger than Pluto. The International Space Union voted for it to be removed by a vote of 9-8. It was thereby declassified as a planet.
Eight years after, this issue became more openly debated. The Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics revisited the previous ruling and this led to more discussion on what truly defines a planet. Gingerich is the chair of the IAU planet definition committee. He raged that planets are culturally defined and it is subject to change over time. Sasselov, director of the Harvard Origins of Life Initiative, challenged this idea by declaring that a planet is a spherical limp that formed around stars or stellar remnants.
And the verdict? Well, these claims do not have heavy weights attached to them but there could be changes as people being to put more thought into the process. Remember, “Space Rome wasn’t build in a single zettasecond”.