If it looks like a planet, revolves around the Sun like a planet and has clouds in its atmosphere than it must be well, a dwarf, of course. But Pluto still has a chance to be considered a planet thanks to the latest images sent by the New Horizon spacecraft.
First it wasn’t big enough, then it was too far, or it was surrounded by too many objects, or it had a weird trajectory. These were all arguments that astronomers brought up when they decided to categorize Pluto as a dwarf planet.
Scientists decided to strip the celestial body of its status after they come up with a set of rules regarding the features a body must have in order to be considered a planet.
The three rules are simple. In order to be considered a planet, a space object must have its own gravity, must circle a star (but independently not as a satellite or another object, because the first rule would qualify a lot of Jupiter’s satellites as planets) and it has to have a no other large bodies in the neighborhood policy.
The third rule sounds like it was invented primarily to keep Pluto out of the planet category. The law doesn’t apply to the icy dwarf because it is located in the Kuiper belt (a large portion of space situated after Neptune that is occupied by sharp objects and debris).
So Pluto was downgraded to a dwarf planet in 2006, and nobody brought up the subject again. That is until last year when the New Horizons spacecraft reached the distant celestial body and took detailed pictures of it.
The team that studies the data sent back by the distant craft observed some new, interesting details about the dwarf. It seems that Pluto still has a chance to be considered a planet because, according to the high-resolution photographs that New Horizons sent, it may have an atmosphere.
The probe picked up something that looks a lot like clouds. The leader of the New Horizons team, Alan Stern, is positively delighted with the new findings.
He stated that the clouds were probably made out of methane, nitrogen and all the other gases that compose its overall atmosphere.
With clouds on his side, Stern is now convinced that the scientific community must reevaluate the status of the former (and possibly future) ninth planet of our solar system.
It seems Pluto still has a chance to be considered a planet, after all.
Image source: www.wikimedia.org