Scientist who “downgraded” Pluto wants to put another world in the planet category

If recent studies on the orbit of a possible new world in the Solar System are correct, Planet 9 should become official as soon as someone manages to confirm its existence. The irony is that one of the authors of the research is the astronomer considered most responsible for removing Pluto from the position of ninth planet in our cosmic “backyard”.

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Scientist Mike Brown , at Caltech, was one of the main — if not the main — agents behind the actions that led to a controversial vote at the Paris-based International Astronomical Union (IAU). The reason: the discovery of the Eris object, larger and more massive than Pluto, meant that there would eventually be dozens of small planets in the Solar System.

So Brown appealed to the IAU for the definition of “planet” was changed to prevent our local catalog of planets from getting too big. The vote was in favor of the change, which led to Pluto’s demotion to “dwarf planet” — and, to this day, many astronomers consider this decision a mistake.

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Pluto and its famous heart-shaped spot (Image: Reproduction/NASA, Johns Hopkins Univ./APL, Southwest Research Inst.)

Incidentally, the new definition of a planet — which now requires objects to “clean up” debris in their orbits — did not make the scientific community very happy. Many astronomers even preferred to ignore the IAU’s decision, but in vain, as the media, professors and literature in general adopted the new definitions.

In any case, Pluto, Eris and others objects later discovered are dwarf planets, but this is not the case for the still-hypothetical Planet 9. Still elusive, with no image to prove its existence, the trans-Neptunian world must be up to five times the mass of Earth, according to Brown.

In a new article, approved for publication in the Astronomical Journal, Mike Brown and Konstantin Batygin showed what they consider evidence of Planet 9. Current ones cannot detect any light reflected by it, but its mass would be large enough to influence the orbit of other objects in the Kuiper Belt.

Brown is confident of the existence of this planet, but there is studies that disagree on the existence of this mu. going away. The controversy has been going on for nine years, since the first observation made in 2012 by Brazilian astronomer Rodney Gomes, from the National Observatory . He noticed that the orbit of some objects in the Kuiper Belt suggested the gravitational pull of something large and massive.

Ceres, one of the planets dwarfs (Image: Reproduction/NASA)

The hypothesis gained traction in 2016, when Brown and Batygin published an article that mentioned these strange orbiting objects in the Kuiper Belt, and explained how something massive would be playing the role of “organizing” the trajectory of these bodies. Now, the new study shows where exactly the planet should be.

With well-established restrictions on the object’s orbit, it is expected that the James Webb Space Telescope, or the Vera C Observatory. Rubin, be able to detect whatever is out there. Scientists who agree with Brown that the discovery may, in fact, be a planet, still seem to harbor some resentment. For them, many objects in the Kuiper Belt also deserve the label, including Pluto.

One of these astronomers is Philip Metzger, a physicist at the University of Central Florida who searched the scientific literature for years after Pluto’s exclusion. He’s the one who discovered that almost all scientists chose to ignore the result of the vote at the IAU — which, incidentally, was described by this group as something done “in a hurry”.

For Mark Sykes, director of the Arizona Institute of Planetary Science, the Pluto demotion episode “has created a divide between scientists and the public and sends a terrible message—especially for this time—that science is done by fiat on the basis of authority.” Apparently, the topic required a broader debate before voting.

Some results of the simulations of the new study, with the dot green representing the possible positions of Planet 9 (Image: Reproduction/Michael E. Brown/Konstantin Batygin/Creative Commons)

Not that Brown is some kind of “villain” in the story, not least because his intention was to have greater freedom to explore the complexity of the Solar System without worrying about a number of planets around the Sun. The paradox is that this had the effect of simplifying the public’s notion. “Because of the IAU, the public is insulated from the emotion of how messy things are out there. The Solar System is crammed with planets!” says Sykes. confirmed, it just underscores Sykes’ point: the Solar System has many more planets than we thought. On the other hand, proponents of the new category of dwarf planets argue how difficult it would be if we had to memorize dozens of names like Ceres, Haumea , Makemake.

There is no evidence that the IAU can backtrack on its decision, set out in 24 of August 99, but the list of planets may even increase so. With ever more powerful telescopes, and a Solar System that goes far beyond the Kuiper Belt, Planet 9 may just be the first of many massive worlds to be discovered in the 21st century.

Source: The Daily Beast, Futurism

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