Special Reports

Neil deGrasse Tyson Maintains, Pluto Is A Dwarf Planet


After being dropped from planetary status in 2006, scientists at John Hopkins University argue that Pluto should be reinstated as a planet. Science popularizer and "Cosmos" host Neil deGrasse Tyson disagrees.

According to John Hopkins University Ph.D. planetary scientist Kirby Runyon, compares the argument to religion and politics. He adds that people, including him, are worked up over it. Pluto was demoted from being a planet to a "dwarf planet" by the International Astronomical Union (IAU).

According to the IAU, the reason for the demotion is that the celestial body did not meet all three criteria the astronomical group uses for Pluto to be accepted and recognized as a full-sized planet. Notably, Pluto met the other two criteria except for one; it has not cleared the neighborhood around its orbit. The other two being: in orbit around the sun, and it has sufficient mass to assume hydrostatic equilibrium.

However, Runyon is adamant in his stance that Pluto along with over 100 celestial bodies in our solar system can be considered a planet based on his new proposal. Although he admits, that discussing the issue can turn into shouting matches and that it would be easier not to bring the subject up, The Washington Post reported.

Ignoring his own advice by risking another shouting match, Runyon will be attending the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in The Woodlands, Texas, on March 21, to take part in contesting the IAU's definition in a poster session. Accordingly, he will lead the session and present his proposal, which was drafted in collaboration with several members of the New Horizons team. Their aim is to present a new definition of planethood.

In a recent guesting on "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert," DeGrasse Tyson admitted to being in the group who decided to demote Pluto into a "dwarf planet" based on it not meeting the IAU's third criterion.

Colbert pointed out that people at NASA want to reinstate Pluto as a planet; citing people wanted the designation of a planet to be closer to people's intuition rather than some arbitrary scientific designation. DeGrasse Tyson responded that people just have to get over it.

He pointed out that Pluto's orbit cross that of Neptune's from time to time, adding that Pluto's orbit is atypical of a full planet's behavior. He exclaimed twice "Stay in your lane!" referring to the "dwarf planet" orbit that crosses into Neptune's lane, as both bodies orbit the sun.

DeGrasse Tyson also pointed out in the same interview, that our own moon has five times more mass than Pluto does. Much as Runyon and his group would want to reinstate Pluto as a planet, DeGrasse Tyson, however, has this to say about the celestial body's demotion, "Pluto had it coming." Space.com reported.

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