Get over it: Pluto is just miscellaneous Kuiper-belt junk

Get over it: Pluto is just miscellaneous Kuiper-belt junk

[I]n terms of size and location, Pluto fits neatly in a group with dwarf planets like Eris, Haumea, Makemake, and likely thousands of undiscovered rocks that orbit in the Kuiper belt, outside Neptune. If we really want to call Pluto a planet, our list of planets is going to be expanding dramatically in future years.

The whole idea of a “planet” is, admittedly, an arbitrary category. Our solar system has thousands of objects that orbit the sun, and fundamentally they’re not all that different from one another.

But if you want to single out a handful of these objects as particularly significant ones — i.e., “planets” — then it’s clear that Pluto is very different. The simplest reason is Pluto’s tiny size, in terms of both diameter…and mass. …

If Pluto were its current size but a unique object — the only object of its kind out past Neptune — that would be one thing. But in 1992, astronomers discovered another tiny object out past Neptune, the first one discovered in what’s now the Kuiper belt.

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“Most astronomers, by that point, realized that Pluto had probably been mistakenly classified,” Brown says. “It was pretty clear that Pluto was not going to be a singular object.” In the years since, more than a thousand Kuiper belt objects have been found.

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