One Man's Quest to Make Pluto a Planet Again


Look at this like one of your favorite reality shows:

In 2006, after 70 some years, Pluto was stripped of its status as a planet and demoted to a dwarf planet. The Tyra Banks of space deemed it “too dinky and distant,” leaving the other planets (Mercury through Neptune) in an eight-way tie to win Universe’s Next Top Planet.

But now your fan favorite is getting a second chance:

Dr. Owen Gingerich
, a Harvard historian and the former chairman of the International Astronomical Union (IAU — the organization that stripped Pluto of its planethood in the first place), is fighting to get Pluto reinstated.

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The IAU’s official definition of a planet is one that:

1. Is in orbit around the sun.
2. Has sufficient mass to assume a hydrostatic equilibrium (a round shape)
3. Has “cleared the neighborhood” around its orbit.

Pluto has all but the latter. Thanks a lot, Neptune.

Dr. Gingerich recently led a debate at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass. to reopen the topic of Pluto’s stance in the galaxy. Gingerich argued that “a planet is a culturally defined word that changes over time.”

(If you want to dedicate an hour of your life to this, you can watch the entire debate here.)

“Is a dwarf planet a small planet?” the resulting report from Harvard asks. “A dwarf fruit tree is still a small fruit tree, and a dwarf hamster is still a small hamster.”

At the end of the debate, the audience voted that Pluto IS a planet. Shantay, you stay, Pluto. (It’s worth pointing out this debate doesn’t officially make Pluto a planet again, but proves that smart people think it should be.)