For the longest time, mankind has performed horrid acts of discrimination and isolation among one another. These sins have not only been committed by those upon this blessed Earth, but also to our brothers high up in the celestial heavens. Indeed, since 2006 Pluto has been bullied, hushed about, and otherwise forced to sit at the end of the lunch table for not fulfilling the right “requirements”.
Determined by the International Astronomical Union, or IAU, a planet must be “a body that orbits the sun without being the moon of another object; is large enough that its own gravity has rounded it into a sphere (but not so large that it undergoes fusion reactions, like a star); and has “cleared its neighborhood” of most other bodies”. Spoiler alert; Pluto didn’t quite make the cut and has since been the laughing stock of its celestial cousins, the butt of numerous jokes, and the source of debate for geeks and nerds alike.
We all have the Kuiper Belt to blame for that of course, that jerk. As Pluto’s nearest neighbor, the Belt sabotaged the game by living life as a pocket of small, floating, and icy objects. I guess no one ever told the Belt that ice particles don’t exactly equate to a sun. In any case, poor Pluto suffered that loss and took the fall from grace, forever shunned by its space buddies and of course, those pesky humans.
But after almost ten years of this horrendous mistreatment of living as a “dwarf planet”, the science community has had enough. Scientists participating in NASA’s New Horizons mission are due soon to propose a new definition as to what defines a planet. New facts, new credentials, and new requirements; in the end, it just goes to show that some people out there love Pluto enough to fight for its rights.
The exact parameters of this new definition can be seen here: “A planet is 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.” For those of us who aren’t science nerds, all that means is that the pint-sized slugger from outer space gets a chance of redemption after nearly a decade of humiliation and outcast. It’s almost like watching a Rocky film but more literal with the rocks. In any case, it does certainly bring to question on what other definitions can be redefined for the science community and how that will affect ordinary life.
Personally, I’d love to relabel our sun as “Blazing Overlord the Magnificent” but chances are that won’t happen. Still, if this new initiative does get pushed through and Pluto does become a planet, it would mean the opening of a new world of labels and our perceptions of what already exist might be something completely different from, say, twenty years from now. And that? Well, that’s just out of this world.