Is Pluto still a planet? Well, this NASA administrator thinks it is
Demoted from its planetary status in 2006, dwarf planet Pluto is once again in the news. And none other than NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine is rooting for the planet. In a tweet, he said,
“Just so you know, in my view Pluto is a planet. You can write that the Nasa administrator declared Pluto a planet once again. I’m sticking by that, it’s the way I learned it and I’m committed to it.”
NASA Administrator, Jim Bridenstine (Image: Facebook)
The declaration made by the NASA administration is still a matter of controversy as many have questioned the points backing Pluto’s planetary status.
Pluto had lost its status in 2006, in a cumulative decision taken by the International Astronomical Union (IAU). According to the union, a celestial body should orbit the Sun, should have a round shape, and should clear its neighbourhood, which means the planet has to be the dominant gravitational body in its orbit, reports Space.com.
Source : nasa.gov
According to ZME Science, a number of discoveries were made in the early 2000s of objects with masses comparable to Pluto, such as Quaoar (announced in 2002), Sedna (2003), and Eris (2005). These discoveries had led to the discussion on whether Pluto should still be called a planet or not.
Astronomers were not convinced that Pluto could meet the last criteria, following which Pluto was voted out of its planetary status.
The decision till date, has been a controversial topic which has raised many questions. Adding to it was the discovery by NASA's New Horizons mission, when it flew by Pluto, under Principal Investigator, Alan Stern, and threw up images that showed large mountains and vast nitrogen-ice plains.
Based on these findings, Alan has been vocal about the planetary status for Pluto and termed IAU’s decision as unscientific. According to him, the decision was taken to keep the planets at a manageable number.
(Edited by Rekha Balakrishnan)