This week’s Question: Last week at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in Houston, Johns Hopkins University's Kirby Runyon reignited an often fierce debate within the scientific community: Pluto’s planetary status.
A decade after the International Astronomical Union demoted Pluto to "non-planet," six scientists from institutions across the United States, led by Runyon, argued that Pluto deserves the full planet designation, along with some 110 other bodies in the solar system, including Earth’s moon.
“In the mind of the public, the word 'planet' carries a significance lacking in other words used to describe planetary bodies,” the scientists' proposal states. “In the decade following the supposed 'demotion' of Pluto by the International Astronomical Union, many members of the public, in our experience, assume that alleged 'non-planets' cease to be interesting enough to warrant scientific exploration.”
The scientists explained that geological properties, such as shape and surface features, should determine what constitutes a planet, not the characteristic leading to the 2006 "demotion": a planet's ability to clear objects from its orbital path. What do you think? Should Pluto be restored as a planet?