High-profile breakups are always hard. Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone, Demi Lovato and Wilmer Valderrama. It’s always sad to see some our favorite celebs part ways, but no breakup was as sad to watch as the ugly separation between NASA and Pluto. After most of us were raised believing Pluto was a proud, albeit small, planet in our solar system, NASA shook the very foundation of our reality by removing Pluto’s planetary status.
It was a tough breakup for many of us to stomach. So many of us who grew up in school remembering the planets in our solar system with mnemonic devices like “My Very Enthusiastic Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas” were suddenly left feeling confused and unceremoniously untethered. Some of us even had unique workarounds to keep Pluto in the planet club. It was hard to move forward, but we soldiered on. NASA knew best, after all.Turns out, not all of NASA was on board with the planetary break-up. As Gizmodo reports, the principal investigator of NASA’s New Horizons mission to Pluto, Alan Stern, thinks Pluto’s demotion is, and I quote, “bullshit.” To right this wrong of planetary proportions, Stern is heading up a team of scientists at NASA to rework the official definition of planets that would not only allow Pluto to proudly reclaim its planet-status, but would also allow for Earth’s moon to become a planet as well.
The quick and dirty explanation of the new definition of planet would be any round object smaller than a star, but if you’re looking for a more technical definition, that would be “a sub-stellar mass body that has never undergone nuclear fusion and that has sufficient self-gravitation to assume a spheroidal shape adequately described by a triaxial ellipsoid regardless of its orbital parameters.” Rolls right off the tongue, right? Regardless of how easy to understand this new definition is, Pluto’s got a good advocate. The New Horizons mission gave us some of the clearest images and most detailed information on Pluto that we’ve ever had, and Stern’s scientific data and his scientific opinion certainly carries more weight than a bunch of millennials who really can’t handle change.
So what happens now? Stern and his team–along with the rest of the world–will have to wait for the International Astronomical Unit to decide if the definition of a planet will be changed to the more inclusive definition. So until then, we can just hope that Pluto will be willing to take NASA back, and we’ll have to try to not get too attached to any mnemonic devices to help us remember the planets in our solar system.
What do you think about Pluto’s planet status? Should NASA change the definition of a planet to include our moon and Pluto, or should things stay as they are? Tell us your thoughts in the comments!
Featured Image: NASA