Thursday, August 4, 2011

Pluto The Dwarf Planet

In 2006, the lineup of planets in our Solar System were shaken up when Pluto was eliminated from the lineup. I can remember this very well when it was on the news. I also remember that in my first Critical Thinking game during my freshman year of high school, "How many planets are in the solar system?" was one of the questions. My partner and I got the question right with "eight," despite another team debating that answer, we ultimately won the game, and got the first spot on that year's "Superstars Board." Five years later, this is still the case. Pluto is considered a dwarf planet along with a handful of others and this won't be challenged again until 2015, which is when a spacecraft will arrive and determine whether or not it qualifies as a planet. The question is, was it the right decision?

Many people feel that Pluto is a piece of their childhood education. I learned about the nine planets back in first grade and took a real liking to the order of the planets, how each planet stood out, the biggest to smallest, and anything else about them. Surprisingly, I didn't memorize them like most people did. Many remember the acronym "My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nine Pies," or something with that tune, give or take a few words. I remembered them by the simple order, as that was how I was introduced to them. In fifth grade, I had to create my own version of the Solar System using Styrofoam balls I would paint, and as I look back, I should have used Model Magic or something of that caliber. I also had the planets hanging on a string horizontally about my bed when I was younger. That was my childhood nostalgia when it came to planets, something many would have. However, when you look deeper and deeper into the structure of the Solar System, you begin to realize that Pluto may not be like the others.

People have favorite planets for different reasons. Pluto happens to stand out in the way that it's the smallest and most furthest planet from the sun. It happens to have so many differences from the other planets, that this led to Pluto's demotion. Recently, new planets have been discovered, not in the structure as the others. You have Eris, Sedna, Orcus, Quaoar, Varuna, 2005 FY9, and 2003 EL61. Then... you also have Charon. To those who memorize the moons as well, Charon happens to be Pluto's only moon, though it's half of size and could very well be a dwarf planet itself in the way it functions. When looking at a graph on, I saw that Eris is actually larger than Pluto. The two are both a part of the Kuiper Belt, which means either Eris equally qualifies as being a planet or Pluto is just a dwarf planet.

There were reasons for Pluto's ejection. While it orbits the sun like the other eight planets, Pluto hasn't cleared its own orbit and is just 0.07 times as massive as anything else in its orbit. Earth, on the other hand, is 1.7 million times as massive as anything else in its orbit. It has been tough to determine the way Pluto functions, but since it's half rock and half ice, Pluto would become a comet in the event that it orbits the sun.

Due to all of this reasoning, either many dwarf planets would become regular planets or Pluto would become a dwarf planet. While Pluto may have been demoted because it was the easier thing to do, it made the most scientific sense. Pluto was only discovered in 1930, so for seventy-six years, we have been learning about the nine planets of the Solar System. At this point, we were given the option to learn about eight or put more on our plate. Maybe we can simply bring the dwarf planets into account and give them a lesson of their own. You have the eight major planets that function like the usual planets and then you have the dwarf planets, which include Pluto and the rest of the gang.

I'm not one of the expert astronomers who dissects the issue, but given that expert astronomers know best about their field, they should be the ones who make the decision as to what's a planet and what's a dwarf planet. Despite the fact that we remember learning about Pluto being one of the nine planets, enough evidence has been given that Pluto would make a better dwarf planet. I haven't attended a first grade class since first grade, so I would have no idea how they are presenting this information to children. You could easily say that "My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Noodles" with the eight planets. As for the dwarf planet concept, that would easily confuse first grades, especially with those being on the border. I have no problem being served noodles by my very educated mother, just as long as they're real and not prepacked like ramen noodles.

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