For most of our lives, our solar system had nine planets - Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto. That is until the International Astronomical Union changed its definition of a plant in 2006, leaving small-time Pluto as a dwarf planet.
In the 12 years following the IAU's decision, there have been countless debates, petitions, and cries from the Pluto-loving populace who want the former planet to regain its designation as the solar system's ninth planet. A recent study out of the University of Central Florida makes quite a case in favor of the one-time planet.
According to the IAU definition, in order for a celestial body to be considered a planet, it must orbit the Sun, have sufficient mass to assume a nearly round shape, and be the dominant object within its own orbit. The IAU argued that Pluto failed to be the dominant object in its own orbit, or "clear the neighborhood," so to speak.
In early September, Philip Metzger, a planetary scientist with the UCF Florida Space Institute, published a study in the academic journal Icarus, arguing that the IAU's standard for classifying planets is not actually valid_. _According to an overview of the study in UCF's online publication, UCF Today, Metzger "reviewed scientific literature from the past 200 years and found only one publication - from 1802 - that used the clearing-orbit requirement to classify planets, and it was based on since-disproven reasoning."
"It's a sloppy definition," Metzger tells the publication. "They didn't say what they meant by clearing their orbit. If you take that literally, then there are no planets, because no planet clears its orbit."
Metzger believes that instead of basing the definition of a planet on its orbit, the scientific community should base it on whether or not the planet is large enough that its gravity allows it to form a semi-sphere shape.
"And that's not just an arbitrary definition," Metzger tells the publication. "It turns out this is an important milestone in the evolution of a planetary body, because apparently when it happens, it initiates active geology in the body."
To further argue his point, Metzger points out that Pluto - with its underground ocean, multilayer atmosphere, and other distinct characteristics - is the second most complex planetary body in the solar system, with only the Earth having more diverse qualities.
"It's more dynamic and alive than Mars," Metzger says. "The only planet that has more complex geology is the Earth."
Ever since the study was released in early September, the army of Pluto fanatics has taken to social media to voice support for Metzger and his team's research. Responses have ranged from people calling out the IAU for its 12-year-old decision, people throwing shade at Mars, and a general sense of hope that the decision will one day be overturned and Pluto will be a planet once more.
Take a look at a few of our favorite responses, and don't forget to sound off in the comments below.
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