Essay Sample about Pluto, A Dwarf Planet

Published: 2022-05-17
Essay Sample about Pluto, A Dwarf Planet
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Space
Pages: 6
Wordcount: 1475 words
13 min read

Every person who was born in the 20th century grew up learning and memorizing nine planets. The nine are Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn Uranus Neptune and Pluto. However, this has changed since August 2006. Pluto was demoted as a planet based on the definition of a planet that was proposed by the International Astronomical Union (IAU). The debate on whether Pluto is still a planet is still raging on but the latest discovery and announcement by the IAU is that Pluto is not a planet but a dwarf planet.

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In a nutshell, Pluto was discovered in 1930 by Clyde Tombaugh using the Newtonian mathematical formulas, making it the second one to be discovered that way after Neptune (Rincon). However, Pluto is as old as other planets which are around four billion years. This is because astronomers believe that all planets were formed at the same time, but were discovered at different times using different methods. Pluto has five moons, and the biggest moon is Charon which is more than half the total size of Pluto. The body was given its name by an eleven-year-old girl from Oxford England who, through her grandfather passed the title to Lowell Observatory (Rincon). The first two letters of the planet P and L were adopted from the initials of Percival Lowell to honor him for his contribution towards the discovery of the planet.

A planet, according to the IAU is a body that orbits the sun, is spherical and must be large enough to clear its orbit. At the time of its discovery, Pluto was thought to be big, even more significant than earth. Further research showed that Pluto is smaller even than the moon of the earth, but it was still held as a planet despite its size. The last part of IAU definition eliminates Pluto from the planets list, leaving the record with eight. This is because Pluto, according to that definition by IAU, qualifies as a planet because it orbits around the sun and also gravity controls it thus maintaining an almost spherical shape. The disqualification is that it has not cleared its orbit of other bodies such as steroids. Science has therefore proposed a new name for Pluto, together with other bodies that do not fully qualify as planets. Astronomers have come up with the name 'dwarf planet' which is defined as 'a heavenly body that is spherical or almost spherical in shape, that orbits around the sun but has not cleared its neighborhood,' (Choi).

The demotion of Pluto from the planets list has raised concerns among many people who feel that the criteria used was not fit. According to these people, Pluto's failure to clear its orbit was just an abnormality or a unique feature, the same way other planets have unique characteristics (DeGrasse). For example, Saturn is known to have rings around it, but there have been no extensions in the definition of a planet to remove it from the list. These people also argue that Pluto is not the only planet that has not cleared its neighborhood, so it was not the only one that was supposed to be demoted (DeGrasse). Other planets including the earth we live in have also not cleared its orbit, yet it has not been removed. Pluto's removal, therefore, was somehow unfair.

Astronomers have justified the demotion of Pluto o the level of a dwarf planet claiming that if it continued being a planet, it would affect the future of planets. This is because there are so many other bodies which are similar to the dwarf planet, and some are even more massive than Pluto itself in the Kuiper belt and beyond (Shiga). If Pluto were allowed to continue being a planet, scientists would demand inclusion of these other similar bodies in the planets list. The addition of these bodies would increase the number of planets, and there would be hundreds of planets shortly. The future was in the hands of the IAU generals who were to determine whether Pluto would remain a planet. The IAU then found the solution to the question as finding an official definition of a planet. This definition would most likely exclude these other celestial bodies, and sure it did.

The Kuiper belt which is an extension of Neptune's orbit consists of many small bodies which are believed to be remnants that remained after the solar system was formed. The objects found in the Kuiper belt were discovered from as late as 1992, and it is from the discovery of these objects that the legitimacy of Pluto as a planet started to fade (Shiga). Many astronomers had contradicting ideas on the same, and the debate went on until Eris was discovered in 2005, making it the most massive object in the Kuiper belt. Discussion on whether to call it a planet or not due to its similarity with Pluto raised and the issue was resolved in 2006 after the new definition. Its fall also caused the fall of Pluto because the similarities that the two bodies exhibited could not allow them to be classified separately. The case of Pluto was not the first one of a kind. Other bodies lost their status as planets earlier, such as Ceres and Pallas, after the discovery of similar bodies in the space and scientists gave them the name asteroids.

The name dwarf planet came as a consolation to the Pluto lovers who felt that it still held its position as a planet, only which it had not matured to perfectly fit the definition of a planet due to the one weakness explained above. The question of whether it is possible for the dwarf planet to gain its planet status again is subject to new definitions of a planet. But what are scientists trying to do? Observation shows that scientists are trying their best so that the number of planets does not rise especially beyond ten (Choi). Evidence shows that if Pluto became a planet once more, the possibility would be that the other objects in the Kuiper belt would also seek the status of a planet (Rincon). If astronomers wish for it, they are just going to bring it to the IAU general assembly who will, in turn, make the decision. The most likely resolution is that Pluto will never gain the status of a planet again, to avoid complicating matters. If the number of planets goes high, future kids will have a difficult time memorizing the solar system and its planets, unlike those of the '90s who sang the song since they were very young.

The bottom line is that Pluto is not a planet. Efforts to try and make it a planet once again may end up fruitless because nobody wants to hear a solar system with 100+ planets. The good thing is that even after being removed from the solar system, Pluto is still recognized as one of the biggest and most massive bodies in the Kuiper belt alongside Ceres and others (Llewellyn, et al.). The future generation will not miss out on the icy dwarf planet, such as its moons with chaotic orbits that often collide, Charon, being the most wonderful with some side being darker than the rest of it. This darker side according to scientists shows the possibility of life. The future kids will know everything that the '90s kids know about Pluto or even more. Therefore, they will not miss a thing. The only change is that they will study the planets, the dwarf planets and other names that will emerge with time due to the continued discoveries that take place.

The debate on whether Pluto is still a planet is still raging on but the latest discovery and announcement by the IAU is that Pluto is not a planet but a dwarf planet. Pluto was the last planet to be discovered, and the solar system had survived for so long without it. Its demotion should not affect the system as scientific discoveries continue to emerge every day and only time will tell whether the body in question should acquire its status once again. Meanwhile, people can continue enjoying the wonderful characteristics of all other planets because each one of them is a wonder and removal of one planet does not mean the end of the solar system.

Works Cited

Choi, Charles Q. "Pluto: planet, dwarf planet, demoted planet?" Astronomy & Geophysics, vol. 47, no. 5, 2006, pp. 5.4-b-5.4.

DeGrasse, Dr. Neil T. "The Pluto Controversy: What's a Planet, Anyway?" Khan Academy,

Llewellyn, Douglas, et al. "The Controversy Over Pluto: Planet or Astronomic Oddball?" Science Scope, vol. 039, no. 01, 2015.

Rincon, Paul. "Why is Pluto No Longer a Planet?" BBC News, 13 July 2015, Accessed 16 Apr. 2018.

Shiga, David. "Pluto controversy rages as planet debate continues." New Scientist, vol. 199, no. 2670, 2008, p. 12.

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