It’s been 13 years and a week since Pluto lost its status as a planet. Yes, you read it right. On August 24, 2006, the International Astronomical Union demoted the status of Pluto. However, a dwarf planet, Pluto have got more fans than ever. NASA chief Jim Bridenstine is one of them.
While speaking at the FIRST Robotics Event in Oklahoma recently, Jim Bridenstine said that he goes against the convention that Pluto is not a planet. A video that has been shared by meteorologist Cory Reppenhagen on Twitter shows Bridenstine saying, “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.”
My favorite soundbyte of the day that probably won’t make it to TV. It came from NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. As a Pluto Supporter, I really appreciated this. #9wx #PlutoLoversRejoice @JimBridenstine pic.twitter.com/NdfQWW5PSZ
— Cory Reppenhagen (@CReppWx) August 23, 2019
It is worth mentioning here that Jim Bridenstine joins a growing list of academics and experts who believe Pluto should be promoted back to being a planet.
Philip Metzger, a planetary scientist at the University of Central Florida, had last year argued in a paper published in the journal Icarus that the reason Pluto lost its planet status is not valid.
Importantly, the decision to demote Pluto from the ‘planet-hood’ was all the more affirming after the discovery of another distant celestial body called as Eris in 2005 which led IAU to lay down three guidelines. These three guidelines had to be adhered by any celestial body to officially constitute itself as a planet. However, Pluto didn’t fall under all the guidelines due to its placement in the Kuiper Belt and along with Eris, it was put under the belt of dwarf planets.
Pluto, which has a multilayered atmosphere, moons and other features commonly associated with planets, is also influenced by Neptune’s gravity. Pluto was discovered by American astronomer Clyde Tombaugh in 1930 and then it was considered as the ninth planet of the Solar System.
The icy, rocky Pluto had been the smallest of the nine planets; its diameter under three-quarters that of the moon and nearly a fifth of Earth. Researchers began calling its planethood into question in the 1990s when it was found that Pluto had plenty of company in the Kuiper Belt neighborhood (an icy ring of small celestial bodies beyond the orbit of Neptune).
The last straw was the discovery of Eris in 2005, a distant object larger than Pluto. The following year, Pluto was stripped of its planetary status by the IAU.
To this day, many scientists (the NASA administrator among them) argue that Pluto isn’t alone — that it is just the face of numerous other celestial bodies in our solar system that are denied this status under the prevailing definition of “planet”.