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Happy National Pluto Day!

Feb. 18 is National Pluto Day

By Angela Garrity, Guest blogger

Today is Pluto Day and the holiday celebrates the discovery of the planet in 1930, no matter if science opted to vote it out of its seat with the others at the “planet club” and left it hanging there alone with its dwarf planet status.

A photo of the white and yellow surface of Pluto

In August of 2006, a decision made by scientists echoed across the Milky Way — Pluto was demoted and no longer considered a full-size planet. Instead, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) downgraded the status of Pluto to a dwarf planet because it did not meet the three criteria the IAU uses to define a full-sized planet.

In order to be considered a full-size planet, mass bodies must meet all three criteria: an orbit around the sun, a spherical shape, and it has to "have cleared the neighborhood" around its orbit. Pluto meets the first two requirements but has yet to prove it has moved other objects in its orbit other than its own satellites – Charon, Hydra, Nix, Styx, and Kerberos.

This is not only a deal-breaker for Pluto, but it also caused much confusion for anyone who attended elementary school before the re-classification was made. Many were taught there were nine planets in our solar system and now kids laugh as they count to eight.

A gif of Pluto photographed through the years

The discovery of the planet dates to the 1840s when Urbain Le Verrier determined that there was a planet outside of Uranus (it’s okay to giggle), but that planet obviously wasn’t Pluto, it was Neptune. Uranus was demonstrating strange characteristics with its orbit that were caused by its nearest neighbor, Neptune. Once observations of Neptune were complete, it was concluded that Uranus’s orbit was still being disturbed and it wasn’t Neptune alone. There must be something else out there causing all this disruption — Planet X.

The search for Planet X was on. During surveys of the deep sky in search of Planet X, two faint smudges appeared, later to be revealed as Pluto. The name was chosen by 11-year-old Venetia Burney, who has a fascination with classical mythology and discovered by Clyde Tombaugh.

After so many years of searching, we think science should give it back it’s full planetary rights and stop treating it like the last one picked for kickball. Go Planet X, go!

Related: Death Wish Coffee sends coffee to the International Space Station

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