Pluto was officially downgraded from planetary status more than a decade ago by the International Astronomical Union (IAU) when it established three main categories of objects in the solar system — planets, dwarf planets, and small solar system bodies. However, the decision has not been taken well by many and that certainly includes the newly appointed NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine.
He declared Pluto a planet again and while you must be thinking that he must have presented a convincing point to bring the dwarf planet on the table with other planets of the solar system with equal status, it’s nothing like that. Bridenstine, a politician, I repeat– a politician, not a scientist, says that Pluto is a planet because that’s the way he learned it.
“Just so you know, in my view, Pluto is a planet, and you can write that the NASA administrator declared Pluto a planet once again, Bridenstine said during a FIRST robotics event in Colorado this week.
A 15-second video clip of the interaction was shared on Twitter by Cory Reppenhagen, a journalist at 9NEWS. In the video, the new NASA chief reiterated his comment, “I’m sticking by that. It’s the way I learned it, and I’m committed to it.”
Just to clear the air, the Pluto is not officially a planet again, just because the NASA administrator said that.
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
While the decision to overrule Pluto as a planet and classify it as a dwarf planet was taken with scientific reasoning, there’s still some ongoing debate over the decision with people pointing out that the decision was taken only by 5 per cent of the total astronomers around the world.
Pluto was discovered by American astronomer Clyde Tombaugh in 1930 and its planetary status was questioned in the late 1990s when it became clear that it was not alone in the Kuiper belt– the ring of icy bodies beyond Neptune. When Eris, a distant object even larger than Pluto, was discovered in 2005, the IAU called for a vote on Pluto stripping it of its planetary status.
While the matter is long settled, some people are finding it hard to get over Pluto not being a planet anymore. Now, the dwarf planet finds mention in the commonly used term, ‘got plutoed’, for people who have been demoted or presented with an opportunity only to be declined later.
Since Pluto is part of science and not science fiction, we should just let it go and not hope for character development where it rises up and takes the mantle. And certainly, we do not want a lone ranger (Bridenstine) helping the underdog (Pluto) to emerge victorious on the battlefield against an organisation (IAU).
Because, if we are going to do that, there are at least 44 other similarly-sized heavenly bodies near our solar system that would demand the same treatment. And ask any science student, he or she would definitely not want to learn the names of a total of 50 planets in our solar system.