'Pluto Is A Planet', Declares NASA Chief, 13 Years Since Its Demotion


NASA chief  Jim Bridenstine has advocated for Pluto's planetary status while addressing a press conference on August 23 saying, "In my view Pluto is a planet."

Written By Suchitra Karthikeyan | Mumbai | Updated On:

Pluto, a planet again?

The debate for the coldest dwarf planet Pluto's planetary status has been a heated one. Since 2006, when the International Astronomical Union (IAU)  downgraded Pluto to a dwarf planet. This debate has heated up time and again with many heavyweights throwing their support for Pluto. This time it is NASA chief  Jim Bridenstine who has advocated for Pluto's planetary status while addressing a press conference on August 23, as per international news reports. He had announced that Pluto is a planet in his view, and the press can tell the world that the Administrator of NASA said so.

"Just so you know, in my view, Pluto is a planet. You can write that the NASA administrator declared Pluto a planet once again. It's the way I learned it. I am committed to it," said Bridenstine while addressing a robotics event in Colorado. Video of the NASA chief proclaiming Pluto a planet has been circulating on Twitter.


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Pluto's demotion to dwarf planet

The IAU had downgraded Pluto's status in August 2006 as it did not meet the three criteria the IAU uses to define a full-sized planet. It failed to meet the criteria - 'has not cleared its neighboring region of other objects', according to IAU. Renowned American Astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson describes himself as an “accessory” to the decision made by the International Astronomical Union (IAU). He has stated that as it failed to meet the third criteria, Pluto belongs “with its other icy brethren in the outer solar system.”

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Pluto's Earth-like qualities

Meanwhile, in 2018, a new study published in Science revealed that the dwarf planet has dunes. These dunes are not like sand dunes on Earth but are made from solid methane ice grains. Dunes are rare in other planets in our solar system with only Earth, Mars, Venus, Saturn's moon Titan, and Comet 67P containing. With this discovery made on Pluto, scientists had concluded that it still has Earth-like characteristics, despite being 30 times further away from the sun as the Earth. This had added to the pro-Pluto debate, with renewed calls for restoration in its planetary status.

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Winter is coming to Pluto

Recently, scientists had discovered that Pluto would freeze over soon. Pluto which is the farthest from the Sun and has the longest orbit, takes 248 Earth years for the orbiting body to complete one revolution around the Sun. Its surface temperature is between minus 378 and minus 396 degrees Fahrenheit. This has made scientists to model seasons on Pluto and how those react to the amount of sunlight it receives during different parts of its orbit. They have recently come to the conclusion in 2030 when winter will be coming to Pluto, the nitrogen-heavy atmosphere could collapse entirely and fall, turning into a layer of solid frost.

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