Scientists are apparently in the midst of deciding if Pluto is, or is not, a planet. Their new criteria for this decision hinges on the fact that, in order to be considered a planet, one has to be pretty exclusively in one’s own orbital domain, ie, no getting in some other planet’s space.
It’s been known for decades that Pluto violates this rule; since its orbit is elliptical, it sometimes crosses over Neptune’s orbit path. From all reports, Neptune is usually pretty cool about this, figuring that as Pluto is a giant block of ice, any controlling brains in machines at the core are going to be damned cold and probably distracted now and then from running things smoothly.
This shouldn’t really be a big deal, but it inexplicably bothers me that Pluto might lose its license. I really think size should be the biggest criteria of whether or not something is considered a planet, along with “not in orbit around another planet” distinguishing such objects from moons.
It’s probably a good thing that the guy who discovered Pluto is no longer with us. Imagine spending all that time, looking for a planet and finding one, only to be told, “You didn’t discover a planet. We don’t know what it is—it may just be a floating hunk of trash. But you didn’t discovery any kind of a planet.”
I imagine that would be pretty discouraging. It would be like spending an hour trying to find your car keys before suddenly realizing, Hey, wait a minute. Why am I looking for car keys? I probably don’t even own a car, at least not a good car. I should probably just give up driving anyway.
On the other front, some scientists are trying to get Pluto’s moon Charon, and Largest Asteroid Winner Ceres, classified as planets themselves. Those scientists, eh? They’re always up to something.