The wounds never healed. But then how could they?
After more than a dozen years, the astronomers still stumble each other over the 2006 decision of the International Astronomical Union (IAU) to remove Pluto from an official plane to a dwarf plan. The high technology back and forth has received a new contribution this week, in the form of a study claiming that our solar system's furthest extinct celestial body is also the "second most complex interesting planet".
Published in Journal Icarus, the study comes from astronomers at the University of Central Florida, who says that an object's dynamic orbital path should be less important for defining a planet than other classification details. "Pluto … has an underground sea, a multi-layered atmosphere, organic compounds, evidence of ancient lakes and several moons," wrote co-author Philip Metzger in a statement. Metzger says that planet identification should be important for the magnitude of the celestial body and whether its gravity makes it spherical in shape.
The IAU 2006 decision discounted the complexity of having something to do with a planet's status as such, instead moving Pluto to a contingent of more than a dozen small spherical objects floating beyond the blue shade of Neptune. Although Pluto is walking around the sun, IAU officials noted that it did not "clean their own orbit".
"Pluto is dead," explained astronomer Mike Brown at that time. "Pluto is not a planet. There are finally official eight planets in the solar system."
The announcement dismissed many astronomers, partly because the Pluto vote took place on the last day of the IAU Annual Meeting in Prague. Only 424 out of more than 1
"I'm embarrassed for astronomy," said Alan Stern to Space.com in 2006. "Less than 5% of the world's astronomers voted." Stern was responsible for NASA's New Horizons mission to Pluto and co-authored the new study.
At the same time, Pluto is self-contained in the gravity of the sun and powerless to save the face – the real victim here. Certainly, it can not lead a room like Jupiter. It would never brag about Saturn's splendor, dropping in ringed eleganza. But Pluto has a lot to do for it, as its sea and the bad boy glum is reserved for only the most mysterious and quiet of the outcasts. As just mortal squabble over what it is or not, Pluto continues its lonely march around our sun. On paper, it's a reduced version of its earlier self, an ice and rock ball twirling about 4.667 billion miles away from us with its five companions, Charon, Styx, Nix, Kerberos and Hydra. But in our hearts there is so much more. Spin back to our arms, Pluto.