Scientists Propose Redefining Planets To Include Pluto And Over 100 Celestial Bodies

By on

CCSS NAS-4 Word Search
Solar System with eight planets and one dwarf planet (Photo Credit: Theplanets.org)

In 2006, the International Astronomical Union (IAU), which promotes and safeguards the science of astronomy, passed a resolution that classified all bodies (except satellites) in our solar system into three distinct categories – planets, dwarf planets, and Small Solar System Bodies. To qualify as a planet, the body had to orbit around the sun, have sufficient mass for its self-gravity to pull it into a round shape, and have cleared the neighborhood around its orbit. Since Pluto did not meet the third criterion, it was downgraded to a dwarf planet.

Now, a group of NASA scientists not only want to restore Pluto’s original status but also reclassify over 100 celestial bodies, including our moon, as planets. The team, led by John Hopkins researcher Kirby Runyon, believes that a planet should be defined by the intrinsic qualities of the celestial body itself, not the external surroundings like its orbit or other objects. They argue that any object in our solar system that hasn’t undergone nuclear fusion and has enough gravitational pull to maintain a round shape, should be called a planet. Under this new definition everything, except for stars, black holes, asteroids, and meteorites, would be considered a planet. This means the number of planets in our solar system would expand from the current eight to almost 110! Among them would be Pluto, our moon, and all newly discovered worlds that are currently dubbed exoplanets.

Pluto (lower right) and, its moon, Charon (upper left) may soon be planets

Though that may sound a lot, especially for students who have to memorize their names, Runyon believes calling them planets will elevate the prestige of the celestial bodies and stimulate the public’s interest. This curiosity will lead to more exploration of our solar system. Additionally, given that most planetary scientists are closely affiliated with geology and other geosciences, the new definition is more relevant than the IAU’s astronomical definition.

While the idea seems valid, the researchers, who presented their arguments at the 48th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference held in Texas from March 20 to 24, still have to obtain approval from the IAU when it meets in Vienna in 2018. Until then, you will have to be satisfied with just eight planets!

Resources: Science Daily, sciencealert.com, newscientist.com, NASA.gov

Generate citations in MLA, APA & Chicago formats for this article.

VocabularyPlay Game

affiliatedapprovalastronomicalcriteriondistinctexoplanetsgeologygravitationalintrinsicmassmemorizemeteoritesnuclear fusionorbitprestigerelevantresolutionrestorestimulatevalid
Name:
Date:

Reading Comprehension (8 questions)

  1. What resolution did the IAU pass in 2006?
  2. What three conditions did a celestial body have to meet to be considered a planet?
Name:
Date:

Critical Thinking Challenge

Is Runyon’s belief that having more planets will increase public...

Name:
Date:

Vocabulary in Context

“The team, led by John Hopkins researcher Kirby Runyon, believes that a planet should be defined by the intrinsic qualities of the celestial body itself, not the external...

247 Comments
to use your custom avatar.
  • panzer_iv_f1
    panzer_iv_f1Tuesday, February 13, 2018 at 10:52 am
    i agree but i think we should leave out the moon and other lunar objects. however, it is possible for a planet to orbit a planet. reply if you agree, disagree, or have any ideas! Feel free to express your opinion!
    • cosmologist377
      cosmologist377Friday, December 1, 2017 at 1:56 am
      This is getting curious, But I think Pluto should remain as a dwarf planet with the other 4 dwarf planets ->( Eris, Ceres, Makemake and Haumea). Pluto does not have a stable orbit so do the other dwarf planets and this is a characteristic feature. And do you know that Eris is the largest asteroid in the solar system! ==> Like if you agree! :-)
      • ATMonday, November 27, 2017 at 8:23 am
        So that is what I think
        • ATMonday, November 27, 2017 at 8:22 am
          I think the pink planet and Pluto are kinda the same except Pluto is not a planet ☹️
          • STuesday, August 15, 2017 at 3:15 pm
            Well they do need to be treated equally so only dwarfs should be planets too many asteroids in one place and a planet does not orbit another planet so asteroids, comets, and moons should not be a planet besides that dwarf planets should be a planet.
            • STuesday, August 15, 2017 at 3:12 pm
              There would be way too many planets
              • OmalThursday, August 10, 2017 at 7:28 am
                I really love science
                • OmalThursday, August 10, 2017 at 7:26 am
                  I have to say that is cool
                  • OmalThursday, August 10, 2017 at 7:23 am
                    Very nice
                    • turtlesturtles
                      turtlesturtlesTuesday, June 13, 2017 at 6:27 am
                      Pluto? Yes, I think should be a planet because it was once actually a planet. Our moon? No, who ever heard of a planet orbiting another planet? Our moon was never a planet, unlike Pluto, so in my opinion I think Pluto should, yes, be a planet as it once was, but as for the moon, no, it should stay a moon
                      • cosmologist377
                        cosmologist377Friday, December 1, 2017 at 1:59 am
                        I think I disagree with that. You see, that depends. Pluto was declared as a planet as soon as it was discovered, but after 2006, the IAA announced it as a dwarf planet because it did not have a stable orbit as the current 8 planets. So, this is my opinion. ==> Like if you agree! :-)

                      Recent Comments

                      hollenisnotreal

                      Ahhh cuteness overload !!!!!!!!
                      Puppy Bowl 14 Promises Viewers A...

                      5th grade wrote:

                      whoever did that deserves a life...
                      Parkland Students Organize "Marc...

                      vdd wrote:

                      Nice that makes that we are migh...
                      Distant Sun-Like Star May Be Dev...

                      Our Apps and Plugins

                      ALA