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Is Pluto a planet or not? Yes, it is and so are over 100 Celestial Bodies

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In this image of Pluto taken by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, different colors represent different compositions of surface ices, revealing a surprisingly active body. (Image: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute) VOA
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NEW YORK, March 18, 2017: Is Pluto a planet or not? Giving this debate a fresh angle, Johns Hopkins University scientist Kirby Runyon wants to make one thing clear: Regardless of what people say, Pluto is a planet.

So, Runyon says, is Europa — commonly known as a moon of Jupiter — and so is the Earth’s Moon and so are more than 100 other celestial bodies in our solar system that are denied this status under the prevailing definition of “planet”.

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The definition approved by the International Astronomical Union in 2006 demoted Pluto to “non-planet,” thus dropping the consensus number of planets in our solar system from nine to eight.

“The change – a subject of much scientific debate at the time and since – made no sense,” said Runyon, lead author of a paper set to be presented next week at a scientific conference in Texas.

Icy, rocky Pluto had been the smallest of the nine planets; its diameter under three-quarters that of the moon and nearly a fifth of Earth.

Still, says Runyon, Pluto “has everything going on on its surface that you associate with a planet. … There’s nothing non-planet about it”.

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Runyon led a group of six authors from five institutions in drafting a proposed new definition of “planet,” and a justification for that definition.

All the authors are science team members on the New Horizons mission to Pluto, operated for Nasa by the John Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory.

In the summer of 2015, the New Horizons spacecraft became the first to fly by Pluto, some 4.67 billion miles from Earth, passing within 8,000 miles and sending back the first close-up images ever made of Pluto.

Runyon and his co-authors argue for a definition of “planet” that focuses on the intrinsic qualities of the body itself, rather than external factors such as its orbit or other objects around it.

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They define a planet as “a sub-stellar mass body that has never undergone nuclear fusion” and that has enough gravitational heft to maintain a roughly round shape.

This definition differs from the IAU definition in that it makes no reference to the celestial body’s surroundings.

That portion of IAU’s 2006 formula – which required that a planet and its satellitesmove alone through their orbit – excluded Pluto.

Otherwise, Pluto fit the IAU definition: It orbits the Sun and it is massive enough that the forces of gravity have made it round.

The proposed new geophysical definition omits stars, black holes, asteroids and meteorites, but includes much of everything else in our solar system.

It would expand the number of planets from eight to approximately 110. (IANS)

 

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A New Planet Dwarf Planet Discovered Beyond Pluto

The two other dwarf planets are Sedna, discovered in 2003, which is about 620 miles (1,000 kilometers) across, and 2012 VP113, about 310 miles (500 kilometers).

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A planet-like object, dubbed "Sedna" is seen in this artist's concept released by NASA, March 26, 2014. A similar dwarf planet, nicknamed "the Goblin," has been discovered well beyond Pluto.. VOA

A scrawny dwarf planet nicknamed “the Goblin” has been discovered well beyond Pluto.

Around frozen world just 186 miles (300 kilometers) across, the Goblin was spotted by astronomers in 2015 around Halloween, thus its spooky name. But it wasn’t publicly unveiled until Tuesday following further observations with ground telescopes.

Scott Sheppard of the Carnegie Institution for Science, one of the astronomers who made the discovery, said the Goblin is on the small end for a dwarf planet. It is officially known as 2015 TG387 by the International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Center.

This is the third dwarf planet recently found to be orbiting on the frigid fringes of our solar system.

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In this image of Pluto taken by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, different colors represent different compositions of surface ices, revealing a surprisingly active body. (Image: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute) VOA

Goblin’s orbit is extremely elongated — so stretched out, in fact, that it takes 40,000 years for it to circle the sun.

At its most distant, the Goblin is 2,300 times farther from the sun than Earth. That’s 2,300 astronomical units, or AU. One AU is the distance from Earth to the sun, or roughly 93 million miles (150 million kilometers).

At its closest, the Goblin is 65 times farther from the sun than Earth, or 65 AU. Pluto, by comparison, is approximately 30 to 50 AU.

Sheppard, along with Northern Arizona University’s Chad Trujillo and the University of Hawaii’s David Tholen, spotted the Goblin in October 2015 when it was relatively nearby — around 80 AU.

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The Planet is farthest from the sun.

The two other dwarf planets are Sedna, discovered in 2003, which is about 620 miles (1,000 kilometers) across, and 2012 VP113, about 310 miles (500 kilometers). They were found by some of the same astronomers.

Thousands — even a million — more such objects could be way out there orbiting in the so-called Inner Oort Cloud, according to the researchers. They’re in hot pursuit of them, as well as a potentially bigger-than-Earth planet known as Planet 9, or Planet X, believed by some scientists to be orbiting at a distance of hundreds of AU.

“These objects are on elongated orbits, and we can only detect them when they are closest to the Sun. For some 99 percent of their orbits, they are too distant and thus too faint for us to observe them. We are only seeing the tip of the iceberg,” Sheppard said in an email.

Also Read: Surface of Pluto Has Sharps Blades of Ice as Tall as The Skyscrapers of New York

Sheppard said the faraway objects are “like bread crumbs leading us to Planet X.”

“The more of them we can find, the better we can understand the outer solar system and the possible planet that we think is shaping their orbits — a discovery that would redefine our knowledge of the solar system’s evolution,” he said in a statement. (VOA)