13 Years After Being Demoted NASA Boss Wants ‘Dwarf Planet’ Back.
Pluto was discovered by American astronomer Clyde Tombaugh in 1930. Some researchers began calling Pluto’s planethood into question in the late 1990s, after it became clear that Pluto was far from alone in the Kuiper Belt, the ring of icy bodies beyond Neptune’s orbit.
Following years of debate, and the 2005 discovery of Eris, a distant object even larger than Pluto, the IAU stripped Pluto of its planetary status.
Instead, the IAU determined, Pluto and similar bodies should be classified as dwarf planets. Planethood requires that an object orbit the sun, have a nearly round shape, and “clear its orbital neighborhood,” according to the IAU, and the astronomers who voted in the 2006 decision weren’t convinced Pluto met that last criterion.
Pluto was downgraded from the ninth planet to a dwarf planet 13 years ago – but a NASA expert refuses to accept the change.
NASA chief Jim Bridenstine doubles down on claim Pluto is a planet, citing its moons, oceans and organic compounds.
Jim Bridenstine reignited the debate by stating Pluto should be a planet because it has an ocean under its surface, organic compounds on its surface and its own moons.
He also noted that if experts at if experts are going to follow the true definition of a planet, which states it needs to clear its orbit around the sun, then we ‘could really undercut all the planets.
“I am here to tell you, as the NASA administrator, I believe Pluto is a planet,” said Bridenstine during a keynote on the final day of the International Astronautical Congress in Washington, D.C. on October 25.
But the decision was highly controversial, and remains so today. Many scientists and laypeople alike advocate for Pluto’s planetary status. One of the most prominent is Alan Stern, principal investigator of NASA’s New Horizons mission, which flew by Pluto in 2015, revealing a stunningly complex and diverse world with large mountains and vast nitrogen-ice plains.