Pluto being a planet L

Evan E. Roach

Professor Branham

English 101 – 24

23 November 2018

Correcting a Mistake: Pluto’s Classification

There is a saying that goes, “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.” This quote is a good rule to live by, but in this case it was the exact opposite of what was done to the formally known as a planet, Pluto. Pluto was made a dwarf planet with nearly no good reason. Of course, there are a few reasons Pluto should not regain the status it had, such as how it does not meet all the requirements of a planet.

Pluto meets all but one of the requirements. These requirements were published by the International Astronomical union (IAU) and proven to be made with faulty reasoning. Many astronomers agree it should be made a planet again, but the IAU have done nothing since Pluto was classified a dwarf planet in 2006.

Other reasons that can be heard frequently of why Pluto is a dwarf planet is that it is too different than the other planets.

It is much smaller and it acts differently. But that should not disqualify Pluto from being a planet because the rest of the planets all have something strange about them as well. These are the reasons people push Pluto as a dwarf planet instead of a planet and they are all true, however, scientists still cannot seem to make up their minds, because it has been a debate for years. The decisions that were made were extremely poor concerning the re-classification of planets, because of the faulty reasoning stated above and because the decision still has not been resolved.

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Pluto was dealt with wrongly with the decision made by too few scientists and the IAU needs to reevaluate their thoughtless decision to make Pluto a planet again and finally, left that way.

Since Pluto fails to meet the requirements to be considered a planet, it would seem there is no argument here. Dr. John Wilkinson describes in Teaching Science:

In August 2006 the IAU [International Astronomical Union] decided on the following definition of a planet: To be a planet a body must: 1. be in orbit around the Sun, 2. have sufficient mass for self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces, so that it assumes a hydrostatic equilibrium (nearly round) shape, and 3. have cleared the neighbourhood around its orbit (32).

Clearly, it meets the first two conditions, but Pluto is lacking in the last. Pluto does not have a clear orbit. With the current definition, the only thing keeping Pluto from its formal title is that it is not alone in its orbit. According to, Pluto resides in the Kuiper belt which is comprised of frozen gases. There is more there than frozen gases though, states that there are icy bodies 100 km in diameter (about 62 miles across), comets, other dwarf planets, and maybe even a ninth planet. Pluto has not cleared its orbit from all of these objects. This might be due to how long it takes to make a full rotation around the sun. state that Pluto may be the largest dwarf planet in our solar system, Eris being its competitor. They explained, "The most accurate measurements currently put Eris at an average diameter of 2,326 km with a 12 km margin of error, compared to a 2,368 km diameter with a 20 km margin of error for Pluto" ( However, according to Eris is also about "three times the distance [from the sun] of Pluto". They state that it is difficult to meaure due to the atmosphere. Nevertheless, with the current measurements made Pluto is still the largest dwarf planet in the solar system.

Size and mass would be the next issue in the strive to make Pluto a planet again. It is smaller than the other planets (see Appendix A), about 1/25 of the mass of mercury, which would set it apart from them. The other planets have strange features attributed to them too, Saturn has extremely large rings around it unlike the others, Uranus spins at slightly more than a right angle compared to the other planets, effectively spinning on its side and on Uranus it would seem that the sun would rise from the west and set in the east, Jupiter is made almost entirely of gas with only a very small amount of rocky terrain termed a failed star or “brown dwarf” (, but because Pluto is a bit small it is not even a planet. Pluto has a diameter of 1,477 miles, being a little less than half the diameter of Mercury, our current smallest planet. states that Pluto has the mass of about 1.309?10?? kg, while the smallest “planet” has the mass of about 3.301?10?? kg.

Pluto also acts slightly differently than the other planets. Its largest moon Charon is a bit more than half Pluto’s diameter, which makes the dwarf planet slightly orbit its moon, Charon. Although Pluto is still called a dwarf planet, explains that with its moon it is also called a binary planet because of their special orbit pattern. This specific point is different to most of the other planets, but The largest planet in our solar system, Jupiter, shares the same orbit pattern. But Jupiter does not slightly orbit itss moons like Pluto does, Jupiter has enough mass that there is a slight binary orbit with the sun. But Pluto has more differences, such as the strange orbit around the sun it has, its orbit is at a skewed angle compared to the other planets (see Appendix B.) Pluto’s orbit the orbits of all the planets are mostly on the same plane but Pluto’s is at quite a different angle. The planet currently farthest from the sun is Neptune, which also has a slightly tilted plane of orbit, but not nearly as profound as Pluto’s. These differences are almost negligible at the planetary scale, but they do make Pluto a point of discussion.

There has been a controversy for a long time now about if we should change the requirements of being a planet or not. As Amanda Kooser wrote on, “It’s the cosmic debate that just won’t die.” Ever since the IAU changed the definition scientists have been struggling to determine what title we should settle on. L. V. Ksanfomality states in his paper Planets, Dwarf Planets, and Small Bodies in the Solar System that Pluto has been called a “Pluton”. Abhay S. D. Rajput wrote in Pluto is now a plutoid – a new class of planetary object that in 2008 Pluto has been given the classification of "Plutoid". The IAU’s classification of Pluto is a dwarf planet.

But the IAU may need to come back to this issue and re-evaluate a bit more slowly. Kooser explained:

Metzger [who ran a study on the subject] says there is no support in the research literature for requiring a planet toclear its orbit. He looked back at over 200 years of publications and says he found only one — from 1802 — that used that requirement to classify a planet, and thatthe sole publication was based on now-disproven reasoning.

If the only reason the requirement for clearing its orbit is from a singular piece of literature from the very early nineteenth century, that should already be re-evaluated to be a good condition of planets. But since it has been proven to be flawed reasoning, there is absolutely no good reason to keep this as a requirement. The IAU has not done much in defining this condition either, but it is vaguely defined by the IAU as having a “clear path” to orbit in. To have a path that is not full of debris or other objects. On the 24th of August, 2006 the resolution B5 was established that has the rules listed as Dr. John Wilkenson states above.

Kooser also states that Metzger referred the definition the International Astronomical Union had as "sloppy." In the article Why Pluto should be reclassified they meant by clearing their orbit. If you take that literally, then there are no planets, because no planet clears its orbit." This is a problem because we all know that Earth is a planet, and so is Mars and Venus. But none of these have a "clear path" through their orbit. This is poorly designed wording in the resolution and should at the very least be defined more precisely. Not only that but according to what Robert Roy Britt states in Pluto Demoted: No Longer a Planet in Highly Controversial Definition on

The vote involved just 424 astronomers who remained for the last day of a meeting of the International Astronomical Union (IAU) in Prague.

‘I’m embarrassed for astornomy,’ said Alan Stern, leader of NASA’s New Horizon’s mission to Pluto and a scientist at the Southwest Research Institute. ‘Less than 5 percent of the world’s astronomers voted [on the decision of Pluto’s classification].’

Five percent of the astronomers in the world is not a very large amount of people, as stated by Britt. Only 424 people deciding how many planets are in the solar system. This is the same as only allowing 3/5 of the U.S. citizens in Texas votes count out of the whole of the U.S.’s population when voting for a new president. This is not enough people for such a decision. This is not usual for a scientific decision to be made. Usually, thousands of repeated tests are performed in various ways to either prove or disprove a phenomenon. Similarly, thousands of people should make the decision on definitions such as this. 424 people is not enough compared to the whole of the astronomer community to make such a decision.

All of this can be heard explaining why Pluto is not a planet. According to, Caltech researcher Mike Brown stated that "Pluto is dead". According to the IAU Pluto does not meet the requirements. If an object does not meet the requirements to be a planet, it is clear that object should not be a planet. It was voted by the astronomer community to make it a dwarf planet. Pluto is quite different compared to the other planets, having size, mass, and plane of orbit all differ from every other planet. These statements are all true.

However, Philip Metzger (planetary physicist at the University of Flordia) would disagree wholly that Pluto is dead saying that “[Pluto is] The second-most complex, interesting planet in our solar system” ( The International Astronomical Union thoughtlessly chose the requirements and only 5% of the astronomer community voted to make the decision. In addition, every planet has unique characteristics. The best reason Pluto continues to remain a dwarf planet is because the IAU refuses to acknowledge and fix the mistake that should never have taken place.

To conclude, the reasons Pluto should not be a planet really have no traction compared to the reasons it should. Yes, Pluto is not as big as the others, yes it acts differently than the others, the most important reason, however, is it does not meet the requirements. But the requirements really are not relevant anymore, because they were made with faulty reasoning. Very little of the astronomer community made the decision, just not enough to be respected. Plus, the IAU never defined what their new condition meant. The best definition gathered would make all the known planets in the solar system dwarf planets. This just will not do. New definitions need to be made and Pluto needs to be in its rightful place again, a planet.



Notes: M is the mass of the object and m is the mass aggregate mass in its orbit. Pluto can be found in the lower left corner along with the other smaller sized of the large objects in the solar system.


Notes: Pluto clearly has a different orbit axis than the other planets.

Works Cited

“Eris Facts”. Theplanets, 27, Nov. 2018

“Eris”. Solarsystem.nasa, 27, Nov. 2018

“Is Jupiter A Failed Star?”. Askanastronomer, 27, Nov. 2018

“Kuiper Belt”. Solarsystem.nasa, 27, Nov. 2018

“Pluto and the Developing Landscape of Our Solar System”. IAU 27, Nov. 2018

“Pluto Demoted: No Longer a Planet in Highly Controversial Definition”. Space, 27,

“Pluto facts”. Theplanets, 27, Nov. 2018

“Pluto should be a planet again, scientists argue anew”. Cnet, 27, Nov. 2018

“Pluto”. Solarsystem.nasa, 27, Nov. 2018

“What is a Binary Planet” Pluto.jhuapl, 27, Nov. 2018

“What is Pluto?” NASA 4 Aug. 2015

“Why Pluto should be reclassified as a planet”. Scitecheuropa, 27, Nov. 2018

Association” Australian Science Teachers Association, vol. 55, issue 4, Dec 2006, pp 32-5. EBSCOhost

Bokulich, Alisa. “Pluto and the ‘Planet Problem’: Folk Concepts and Natural Kinds in Astronomy.” Perspectives of Science, vol 22, 2014, pp. 464-90. EBSCOhost, dio:10.1162/POSC_a_00146. Accessed 24 November 2018.

Nov. 2018

Rajput, Abhay. “Pluto is now a plutoid – a new class of planetary objects.” Current Science. Vol. 95, issue 10, 25, Nov. 2008, p. 1388, EBSCOhost

Wilkinson, John. “Teaching Science: The Journal of the Australian Science Teachers

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