Solar System Could Have More Than 100 Planets With New Classification

First Posted: Mar 22, 2017 03:34 AM EDT

Until a few years ago, it was known that the Solar System has nine planets. However, this information was tweaked in 2006, when Pluto was demoted from its former position of a planet to a dwarf planet. Since then it has been widely accepted that there are eight known “true” planets that orbit around the Sun. Now, according to a group of scientists, our star system could have more than 100 celestial objects that can be classified as planets.

A research team headed by Johns Hopkins University’s Kirby Runyon has prepared its own version of how planets should be classified. According to the team of researchers, the factors defining the eligibility of a celestial object as a planet should depend solely on the object itself and not other factors like location, etc.

Going by the team’s definition, Earth’s Moon or even Jupiter’s moon Europa are planets. This is because both moons are no less than a planet -- under the current definition of Mars, Jupiter or even Earth -- besides also being larger than Pluto.

So, what is the existing definition of a planet? According to the International Astronomical Union's (IAU) criteria, a planet is “a celestial body that (a) orbits around the Sun, (b) has enough mass for its self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces so that it assumes a hydrostatic equilibrium (nearly round) shape, and (c) has cleared the neighbourhood around its orbit." Keeping these requirements in mind, Pluto was demoted to a dwarf planet because to be considered a planet, the icy world and its natural satellite would have to move alone through their orbit.

According to a BGR report, if the researchers’ version of planetary definition is actually widely adopted, then it would increase the number of planets from eight to 110. The scientists’ supporting argument and information will be presented in the upcoming Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in Texas.

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