Planet Pluto: Yea or Nay? An Astronomic VS

Pluto, Eyewire, citizen science

It’s one of the hottest debates in pop astronomy today: is Pluto big enough to count as a planet of our solar system? Well, actually, most astronomers today would say it’s not much of a debate. On August 24, 2006, the International Astronomical Union decided (probably once and for all) that Pluto is not a planet. The IAU says a planet must be in orbit around its sun, it must be massive enough to be rounded by its own gravity, and it must have “cleared the neighborhood” around its orbit, i.e. it must be gravitationally dominant compared to other objects around it. Pluto has not cleared its neighborhood; Neptune gravitationally affects it, and it’s too close to the Kuiper belt. Thus, by the IAU’s definition, Pluto is a dwarf planet, not a proper planet.

Still… the internet seems kind of nostalgic for the days of nine planets. How does Eyewire feel about this?

Reasons why you might still support Planet Pluto:

  • The principal investigator of the recent New Horizons mission to Pluto has argued that if a planet has to clear its neighborhood, then Earth, Mars, Jupiter, and Neptune would also not count because of their own orbital proximity to asteroids.
  • The vote was made by only a small percentage of astronomers in the IAU.
  • You’ve just got a soft spot for outsiders.
  • Aw, come on, it’s so widdle and cute, who’s a good boy?

Reasons why you might not support Planet Pluto:

  • The only reason that real planets in our solar system have asteroids in their presence is because those asteroids are under those planets’ gravitational influence.
  • The IAU’s been the official academic authority on these matters since 1919. They probably know what they’re talking about.
  • Sure, right now Pluto’s the ruling planet for Scorpio in astrology… but that’s not exactly scientific, now is it?
  • The Roman god Pluto’s counterpart in Greece was Hades… who didn’t get to sit at the big Olympian kids’ table either.

Okay, the scientific community has spoken, but ten years on, we will give you one chance to get these emotions out of your system, starting at 11:00 AM EDT on 8/4 and running for 24 hours!

The usual bonuses
Earn 5,000 points – 2,500 bonus
Earn 15,000 points – 5,000 bonus
Earn 25,000 points – 10,000 bonus
For every 25,000 points above 25,000 – 5,000 bonus
Member of winning team (if you’ve scored at least 2,500 points) – 10,000 bonus
Highest scorer on each team – 5,000 bonus
Player with #1 overall score – 10,000 bonus
Player with #2 overall score – 5,000 bonus
Player with #3 overall score – 2,500 bonus

Artwork by Soyeon Lim

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