PISCES Robotic International Space Mining Competition
STEM Aerospace Research Scholars
Research Investigating Dust Explusion Removal Systems
QUESTION: Why is Pluto no longer considered a planet?
Answer: Pluto was first discovered in 1930, bringing the tally of known planets in our Solar System to nine. Scientists were only able to determine an approximation of its size in 1978 when Pluto’s largest moon, Charon, was discovered. The most accurate measurement currently sizes the celestial body at 1,500 miles across – tiny by comparison to any other planet in our Solar System. But over the last 10 years, discoveries in the outer Solar System have revealed that Pluto is not alone. In fact, other celestial bodies with a similar size and nearly identical composition have been found within the Kuiper Belt – a region extending well beyond Neptune that is home to an estimated 70,000 icy bodies orbiting the outer reaches of the Solar System.
In 2005, a team of astronomers discovered ‘Eris’, an icy ball sharing Pluto’s characteristics, but 25% larger. With this new revelation, Pluto’s status as a planet became rather ambiguous. The discovery of Eris would bring the number of planets in the Solar System to 10 – according to the criteria used to judge Pluto. But were these really planets?
To settle the matter, an assembly of astronomers made a final decision about the definition of a planet during an international astronomy meeting in August, 2006 in the Czech Republic. Their consensus was this: to be a planet, the following criteria must be met:
Pluto did not meet the third requirement, and was therefore demoted of its planetary status and deemed ‘dwarf planet’. Eris was officially designated as the same.
Hōkū lele: means shooting star or meteor. (literally translated as ‘flying star’)
The Pacific International Space Center for Exploration Systems, or PISCES, is a Hawaii State Government Aerospace Agency located in beautiful Hilo, Hawaii.
The Center is part of the State Department of Business, Economic Development, and Tourism (DBEDT) and conducts environmentally safe tests on Hawaii’s volcanic terrain to validate advanced space technologies under the jurisdiction of the Hawaii State Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR).