A new study suggests that perhaps we were a bit hasty to reject Pluto as the ninth planet in our solar system.
A new study suggests that the 2006 decision to downgrade Pluto from a planet to a dwarf planet may have been incorrect.
The International Astronomical Union decided in 2006 that Pluto should not be considered the ninth planet in our solar system, but experts have debated that decision ever since, and this new study based on data from NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft may push Pluto back into planet consideration, according to a NASA statement.
The spacecraft flew by Pluto back in July 2015, and since then it has been sending data back at a trickle. The findings were detailed in the Journal of Geophysical Research and suggest that the way Pluto interacts with solar wind is more like the way a planet would rather than comet.
Researchers called the results surprising, as the way Pluto interacts with sola rwind is similar to how the other planets behave as well.
Solar wind is blasted by the sun constantly. When it strikes a comet, there is a gentle slowing of the solar wind, but with a planet there is a diversion. Scientists had thought Pluto had done the former, but found it fit into the category of the latter.
“This is a type of interaction we’ve never seen before anywhere in our solar system,” said David J. McComas, lead author of the study. McComas, professor of astrophysical sciences at Princeton University and vice president for the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory. “The results are astonishing.” McComas leads the SWAP instrument aboard New Horizons; he also led the development of SWAP when he was at the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) in San Antonio, Texas.