Alabama scientists at center of new debate of whether Pluto should be a planet (again)
Two prominent scientists with deep Alabama ties are on opposite sides of the renewed debate about whether Pluto should be classified as a planet, per WHNT.
Pluto was downgraded in 2006 to a “dwarf planet” from a planet. While controversy has brewed since, a new scientific study released this week might see it spill over once again.
Alabama NASA scientist and Von Braun Astronomical Society member Dr. Naveen Vedcha agrees with the research – published in the journal Icarus – that concludes Pluto should be reclassified as a planet.
However, the scientist who originally led the line against calling Pluto a planet, Mike Brown, is himself from Huntsville.
Per the International Astronomical Union (IAU), there are three criteria for being classified as a planet: It has to orbit the sun, have a spherical shape and be able “to clear the neighborhood” (knock other rocks out of its orbit).
“Pluto is one in a big band of junk, and that was my main role was finding even more of the junk, and making it known that Pluto was part of that junk,” Brown outlined.
The study released this week asserts that only a single piece of literature written since the year 1800 utilized that final requirement for planet classification. That lonely piece was written in 1802.
Pro-Pluto NASA scientist Vedcha takes the position that people should focus on its spherical shape, as that shape starts geological processes.
“There are mountains on top of it, you can see this methane ice, and there is probably an ocean,” he said.
Time will tell whether Pluto’s proponents have enough wind at their backs – or facts on their side. While the debate has certainly reignited this week, no motions have yet been made with the IAU to officially upgrade Pluto’s status.
Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn