A group of scientists, including some associated with the New Horizons space probe, are working diligently to restore #Pluto’s status as a full-fledged planet. They believe that a planet should be defined by its inherent physical properties and not by its surroundings, as the scientists who downgraded Pluto did. But the effort will not succeed if Neil deGrasse Tyson has anything to say about it.
Typically Tyson, a celebrity astrophysicist, and media personality did not make his ire known in the pages of a scientific journal or at a prestigious conference. He came out swinging against the effort to redeem Pluto on Stephen Colbert’s “The Late Show.”
Tyson trotted out a new reason for disrespecting Pluto. He pointed out that, from time to time, the orbit of Pluto crosses that of Neptune. A proper planet would stay in its lane as both Colbert and Tyson pointed out vehemently.
Oddly, when Tyson initially came out against Pluto as a planet, in his role as director of the Hayden Planetarium, he claimed that it resembled more the rocky, icy bodies in the Kuiper Belt than a proper planet. However, the New Horizon, which flew by Pluto in the summer of 2015, revealed it to be a strange world of frozen nitrogen glaciers and ice mountains with active geophysical processes. Tyson seems to have shifted his reasoning for keeping Pluto in its current status as a dwarf planet.
The new definition of a planet would expand the number in the #Solar System from eight to about 110, including bodies that are currently designated as moons and asteroids. The Earth’s moon would become a planet under the new regime, making it an equal companion of humanity’s home world.
All this means is that the science, to use an over-employed euphemism, is hardly settled as to what the proper definition of a planet it. The battle is going to put astronomers and astrophysicists against geologists and geophysicists over how the definition should be worded. Tyson has only himself to blame for started the controversy, to begin with. But, maybe that was the point, since before Pluto Tyson was little known outside scientific circles. #Neil Degrasse Tyson