Jim Bridenstine, the NASA administrator declares that in his opinion Pluto is still a planet.
The former ninth planet was officially downgraded from planetary status to a dwarf over a decade ago. But fans of the solar system’s underdog continue to root for the small cosmic body including the NASA Administrator who expressed his opinion on the long-standing debate over Pluto’s planethood.
Bridenstine said during press remarks in the FIRST robotics event in Colorado this week, “Just so you know, in my view, Pluto is a planet, and you can write that”.
The video coverage of the interaction was posted on Twitter by meteorologist Cory Reppenhagen of 9News.
My favorite soundbyte of the day that probably won't make it to TV. It came from NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. As a Pluto Supporter, I really appreciated this. #9wx #PlutoLoversRejoice @JimBridenstine pic.twitter.com/NdfQWW5PSZ
— Cory Reppenhagen (@CReppWx) August 23, 2019
This declaration goes against the official decision made in 2006 by the International Astronomical Union (IAU) where astronomers voted to strip Pluto’s planetary status.
But to the delight of Pluto fans’, Bridenstine reiterated his dedication by adding, “ Pluto is a planet. I’m sticking by that. It’s the way I learned it, and I’m committed to it.”
Discovered back in 1930 by American astronomer Clyde Tombaugh, doubts about its planet-hood started rising in the late 1990s, after it became evident that Pluto was not alone in the Kuiper Belt viz. the ring of icy bodies outside Neptune’s orbit.
After years of debate, and the discovery of Eris, another distant object even larger than Pluto in 2005, the IAU removed Pluto’s planetary status and determined that Pluto and similar bodies should be classified as dwarf planets.
But this decision was highly controversial, and till today several scientists and space enthusiasts advocate for Pluto’s planetary status. Alan Stern, the principal investigator of NASA’s New Horizons mission which flew past Pluto in 2015 and revealed a stunningly complex and diverse ecosphere comprising of large mountains and vast nitrogen-ice plains, is one of the most prominent Pluto-supporters. He has long criticized the IAU’s decision as unscientific, contending that it was made mainly to keep the number of “official” planets at a manageable number.