FIVE YEARS LATER, PLUTO’S PLANETHOOD DEMOTION STILL STIRS CONTROVERSY
Five years ago today, the solar system lost a planet. On August 24, 2006, Pluto which had been known as the ninth planet since its 1930 discovery was demoted to the newly created category of “dwarf planet”. The decision was controversial. There were some scientists who disagreed with the reasoning behind it. The layman people were also confused and upset to know about the sudden change.
This debate shows people, especially kids that science is always evolving and it’s exciting. When Pluto was discovered in 1930, it was viewed as an oddball, and that perception stuck for the next six decades. Pluto is much smaller than the eight other planets and is also much farther away. But in the 1990s, the astronomers realized that Pluto isn’t such an oddball. The new discoveries prompted some scientists to re-examine their basic examining of the solar system structure.
This re-think really got a jump start in 2005, when Caltech Astronomer Mike Brown announced the discovery of Eris, a Kuiper belt object that seemed to be even larger than Pluto. While scientists such as Brown and Stern may differ on the question of Pluto’s planethood, they agree that the last two decades have brought about a sea change in understanding of the solar system. We now know that the solar system’s frigid outer reaches are packed full of big, interesting objects. In 2000, Brown said that dwarf planets might actually exist in the solar system.
So Pluto is now known to be just one of many big, icy and quite diverse bodies orbiting the sun from far away.
The debate over Pluto’s Planethood is a result of this vast increase in knowledge, this revolution in how we view our cosmic neighbourhood. And it serves as a reminder that science is not an ironclad set of facts but rather a process, a way to learn as much as possible about ourselves and our surroundings. It shows that we’re constantly expanding our knowledge of the solar system and our place in the Universe. “Science is always evolving and we are always discovering new things.”