Pluto Planet or Dwarf Planet

Prior to the removal of Pluto from the official list of planets, astronomers had never established a rigorous scientific definition of a solar system planet, nor had they agreed on a minimum mass, radius, or mechanism of origin for a body to qualify as one. The traditional "instinctive" distinctions between the larger planetary bodies of the solar system, their moons, and small bodies such as asteroids and comets were made when their differences had seemed more profound and clear-cut and when the nature of the small bodies as remnant building blocks of the planets was dimly perceived. This early, disjointed conception of the solar system was in some ways analogous to the situation described by the Indian fable of the blind men, each of whom identified a different object after touching a different part of the same elephant. It later became clear that the original groupings of the components of the solar system required reclassification under a set of more-complex, interrelated definitions.

If Pluto had been discovered in the context of the Kuiper Belt rather than as an isolated entity, it might never have been ranked with the eight planets. Indeed, in the decades after Pluto's discovery, some astronomers continued to question its planetary status in view of its small size, icy composition, and anomalous orbital characteristics. Moreover, about the turn of the 21st century, astronomers observed several KBOs that are each roughly the size of Charon and one, named Eris, that is slightly larger than Pluto itself.

Because Pluto was no longer unique in the outer reaches of the solar system, it became incumbent on astronomers either to admit additional members into the planetary ranks or to exclude Pluto. In August 2006 the IAU voted to take the latter course while establishing the category of dwarf planets to recognize the larger members of a given population of objects having similar compositions and origins and occupying the same orbital "neighbourhood." A dwarf planet is smaller than the planet Mercury yet large enough for its own gravity to have rounded its shape substantially. Like the major planets, it orbits the Sun, but unlike major planets, these bodies are not massive enough to have swept up most smaller nearby bodies by gravitational attraction; they thus failed to grow larger. Pluto, Eris, and Ceres met these criterion and were designated dwarf planets.

In June 2008, the IAU created a subcategory within the dwarf planet category, called plu-toids, for all dwarf planets that are farther from the Sun than Neptune—that is, bodies that are large KBOs. Pluto and Eris are plutoids; Ceres, because of its location in the asteroid belt, is not. Since then, two more KBOs, Makemake and Haumea, have been designated dwarf planets and plutoids.

(KBOs) were directly observed starting in the early 1990s, astronomers came to the conclusion that Pluto and Charon likely are large members of the Kuiper

Belt and that bodies such as Chiron, Neptune's moon Triton, and a number of other icy moons of the outer planets originated as KBOs.

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