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The Daily Eastern News

The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

COLUMN: Is Pluto a planet? Nope!

Dan+Hahn+is+a+graduate+student+studying+English+and+can+be+reached+at+217-581-2812.
Dan Hahn
Dan Hahn is a graduate student studying English and can be reached at 217-581-2812.

When my colleague and fellow DEN columnist Kiersten Budz told me that she believes, wholeheartedly, that Pluto should be a planet and that nothing could change her mind, I thought it would be fun to try and convince her otherwise.

Discovered in 1930, Pluto held the title of the ninth planet for many decades. Then in 2006, Pluto was controversially demoted to the status of a “dwarf planet” by the International Astronomical Union, or the IAU.

The reason is orbital. The eight planets that orbit our sun do so on a relatively flat plane. Pluto’s orbit, on the other hand, is noticeably inclined. Not only that, but there are vast intervals of time (most recently from 1979 to 1999), where Pluto is closer to the Sun than Neptune. How are we supposed to teach the order of the planets if it changes over time?

Because of this oddity, Wikipedia outlines that Pluto is more closely related with the orbits of trans-Neptunian objects and other Kuiper Belt objects, rather than the standard behavior of a planet.

Classifying Pluto as a planet would not only defy consistency but also undermine the credibility of astronomers and astrophysicists, such as Niel Degrass Tyson, who says on TikTok that people who want Pluto to be classified as a planet need to “get over it.”

Including Pluto as a planet would necessitate a reassessment and redefinition of orbital mechanics that define planethood.

As Eastern students, we are invested in institutions of higher education both financially and intellectually.

While I certainly believe it is acceptable to challenge authority, within reason, our future success as critical thinkers hinges on our ability to take in new information and adapt our viewpoints.

I’m no astronomer, and at the end of the day we need to respect both the authorities in the field and the academic rigor that leads to new discoveries. We cannot challenge authority just because we feel differently than the experts.

It would be hypocrisy if we did not acknowledge the consensus of the scientific community and the collective expertise that guided Pluto’s reclassification.

We must also acknowledge that classifying Pluto as a dwarf planet does not diminish its value. I am certain there are numerous, unimaginably wonderful discoveries that await us on Pluto, regardless of the nomenclature we use to categorize it.

Pluto’s reclassification as a dwarf planet is a testament to the adaptability and self-correcting nature of the scientific community, of which all good academics strive to belong to.

By respecting this decision, we prove ourselves to be adaptable and open to deeper understandings of our solar system and the cosmos at large.

Dan Hahn can be reached at [email protected] or 217-581-2812.

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Dan Hahn, Columnist
Dan Hahn is a graduate student studying English and can be reached at 581-2812.

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