Things May Be Looking Up for Pluto

This NASA infrared image obtained on May 29, 2014 combines data from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope with shorter-wavelength observations from the Two Micron All Sky Survey (2MASS).At a distance of around 750 light-years, these young stars reside within the confines of the constellation Serpens, or the "Serpent." This collection contains stars of only relatively low to moderate mass, lacking any of the massive and incredibly bright stars found in larger star-forming regions like the Orion nebula. Our sun is a star of moderate mass. Whether it formed in a low-mass stellar region like Serpens, or a high-mass stellar region like Orion, is an ongoing mystery. The stellar "hatchlings" in the Serpens Cloud Core represent the very youngest stages of stellar development. They appear as red, orange and yellow points clustered near the center of the image. Other red features include jets of material ejected from these young stars. Some mature stars that are not in the nebula appear yellowish due to dust obscuring our view at shorter, bluer wavelengths.They only become detectable at much longer wavelengths of light. The inner Serpens Cloud Core was assembled from 82 separate snapshots totaling a 16.2 hours of Spitzer observing time. Serpens is one of several star-forming regions targeted by the Young Stellar Object Variability (YSOVAR) project, which conducted repeated observations in each area to look for changes in brightness in the baby stars. Spitzer observations at wavelengths of 3.5 and 4.6 microns are shown in green and red, respectively. 2MASS data at 1.3 microns is displayed as blue. These observations date from Spitzer's warm mission phase, following the depletion of its liquid coolant in 2009. AFP PHOTO/NASA/JPL-CALTECH/2MASS/HANDOUT = RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO /NASA/JPL-CALTECH/2MASS / HANDOUT" - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - NO A LA CARTE SALES/DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS = HANDOUT/AFP/Getty Images
NASA infrared image obtained on combined data from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope.

In 2006, little Pluto bit the dust, well in terms of its planet status, at least. Physically, Pluto still remained, but eight years ago, according to Scientific American, Pluto was demoted to “dwarf status.”

But, given some recent developments surrounding Pluto’s five, yes FIVE, moons, the little guy may be making a celestial comeback.

Astronomers of the International Astronomical Union (IAU) in August 2006 at their General Assembly, said apparently Pluto didn’t fit their rulesof planetary being, which states:

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“...Two conditions must be satisfied for an object to be called a ‘planet.’ First, the object must be in orbit around a star, while not being itself a star. Second, the object must be large enough (or more technically correct, massive enough) for its own gravity to pull it into a nearly spherical shape.”

But, why does the IAU have to be so restricting?

In their press release about the 2006 General Assembly, President Ron Ekers explained it was necessary to kick some out of the planet club:

“Modern science provides much more knowledge than the simple fact that objects orbiting the Sun appear to move with respect to the background of fixed stars. For example, recent new discoveries have been made of objects in the outer regions of our Solar System that have sizes comparable to and larger than Pluto. These discoveries have rightfully called into question whether or not they should be considered as new ‘planets.’”

Here are a few reasons why Scientific American reported that Pluto may, indeed, regain its planethood:

1. Pluto has five moons.

2. Pluto may be the largest world orbiting the sun beyond Neptune.

3. Pluto has methane in its air and has an atmosphere.

4. Pluto may be 1,471 miles across as opposed to Eris, Pluto’s rival planet that is three times farther from the sun, that is only 1,445 miles across.

Apparently, Pluto’s real diameter will be measured in July 2015 when NASA intends on doing a pluto flyby.

Will these traits be enough to put Pluto back in the planetary spotlight?

The New Yorker said, “Plutonic nationalism can be found everywhere. There are pro-Pluto Web Pages, pro-Pluto books, pro- Pluto pressure groups. They contain, and generate, heated argument and loud accusation.”

Check out this petition with over 300 signatures thus far.

Only time will tell Pluto’s fate.