Study Makes the Case for Pluto as a Planet

Debate over Pluto's Planet Status Still Contested

This view is projected from a point 1,118 miles (1,800 km) above Pluto's equator, looking northeast over the dark, cratered Cthulhu Regio toward the bright, smooth expanse of icy plains called Sputnik Planum.

A new study by a University of Central Florida researcher has become the latest to argue that Pluto should be reclassified as a planet, and that the reasons for its demotion to dwarf planet status in 2006 do not hold much weight. The IAU thought Pluto was too small to "clear the neighborhood", which refers to the ability to move other rocks out of its path as it orbits the sun, but many scientists disagree.

Caption: The planet Pluto is pictured in a handout image made up of four images from New Horizons' Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) taken in July 2015 combined with color data from the Ralph instrument to create this enhanced color global view.

UCF planetary scientists led by Philip Metzger from the Florida Space Institute said the standards for classifying planets isn't supported in research.

Moons such as Saturn's Titan and Jupiter's Europa have been routinely called planets by planetary scientists since the time of Galileo. "It's a sloppy definition", Metzger said further adding that "they didn't say what they meant by clearing their orbit".

'And it would leave out the second-most complex, interesting planet in our solar system'. Therefore, scientists say Pluto has to be cataloged as a planet again. "The IAU has done damage to the public perception of science, which is a process free from centrally dictated authority, in its imposition of a definition of planet and the number of planets fitting that definition, which has been instilled in educational textbooks around the world on the basis of their authority".

Metzger said the third part of the definition (and Pluto's hinderance) isn't good enough.

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He added: "It's more dynamic and alive than Mars".

"The only planet that has more complex geology is the Earth".

Speaking about criteria that could be used instead for the planet classification, Metzger insisted that people should look at "the intrinsic properties of the planet". Since this is a false historical claim, he said, it should not have been applied to Pluto. "They are doing it because it's functionally useful", Metzger said. "So, they are not the fundamental description of a body, they are just the occupation of a body at a current era". According to this definition, bodies that orbit the Sun, are spherical, do not orbit other bodies, and have cleared their orbits were designated planets. And that's not just an arbitrary definition.

"It turns out this is an important milestone in the evolution of a planetary body, because apparently when it happens, it initiates active geology in the body", he said. The former "ninth" planet has a subterranean ocean, and the layered atmosphere that makes it nearly as complex in geological terms, Earth.

If this were the case, then Pluto would be right back up there with its bigger planetary neighbours as it has organic compounds, an underground ocean, evidence of ancient lakes, a multilayer atmosphere, and multiple moons.

The IAU told Fox News that it has not yet received a formal proposal to change its definition of a planet.

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