savepluto (savepluto) wrote,

Five Years Ago Today, Pluto Was Demoted

In the midst of all else happening in the world, whether it be new events or other anniversaries, some might feel that the fifth anniversary of Pluto's demotion is minor at best and inconsequential at worst. But those of us at the Society for the Preservation of Pluto as a Planet (or SP3) are still committed to the idea that Pluto's status ought to be re-evaluated, and that Pluto should once again be referred to as a planet, and not a dwarf planet.

If you visit our website, you'll see that we continue to support scientific arguments in favor of Pluto; we also still feel that Pluto has the right to be grandfathered in for sentimental reasons. But there's another discussion we've come across that we feel bolsters our argument.

Interestingly, it comes from Mike Brown, the astronomer whose discoveries led the way to Pluto's demotion. In his blog post from yesterday, Free the dwarf planets!, Brown makes the convincing argument that the International Astronomical Union (IAU) really should not be allowed to declare themselves the arbiter of what is or isn't a planet:

When the IAU defined dwarf planet they also declared themselves gatekeepers of what counts and what doesn’t. While that might not sound like a big deal at first, it is actually quite a deviation from standard scientific practice. In every other part of astronomy, if I make a discovery – let’s say a new brown dwarf – I write a scientific paper announcing the new discovery to the world. Other scientists can then go observe the object and decide, perhaps, that I was mistaken. They then write a paper saying that, no, it wasn’t a brown dwarf, it was a distant galaxy, and the scientific debate continues. At no point is the IAU required to ever enter the object on the official brown dwarf or official distant galaxy list, because no such official lists exist.

Whether or not Pluto gets reinstated, we're still very excited that the New Horizons mission will reach Pluto now in only four years. What wonders will we discover? We can only imagine.

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