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"The reason I am doing an astronomy story is because we got to choose what story we wanted to do and I am much more interested in astronomy than I am in biology."
Shelby Cook

Pluto’s Demotion
by Shelby Cook

"The solar system right now is exactly like it was 24 hours ago nothing's changed in that time period -- just the name by which we define each of these things." Although Pluto has many characteristics that make up a planet, it doesn’t meet all the requirements. Many people believe that Pluto’s demotion was for the best because it was causing so much conflict between scientists. Many people believe Pluto shouldn’t have been demoted because it was a planet for so long and because it was causing more commotion then it ever did before. I will be examining both sides of the argument by explaining how and why it was demoted, people’s opinion on the demotion, and the effects of Pluto’s demotion.

Why And How Pluto Was Demoted

Clyde W. Tombaugh founded Pluto in 1930 because of a mistake and because the term planet wasn’t defined until 2006. When the International Astronomical Union (IAU) met to demote Pluto, Pluto was considered a planet. Well of course many people weren’t happy because they thought of Pluto as a large object in the Kuiper Belt, or they thought Pluto was to small (Pluto is roughly the same size as the united states). Astronomers have been arguing this issue for 36 years, since it was considered planet. Which is why last August, the IAU met and defined the term “planet” as well as “dwarf planet.” Planets must be round, a celestial body that orbits the sun, and clear its neighborhood around it’s orbit. The previous definition was very vague and was not considered a definition since it said only that a planet must be a celestial body that orbits the sun. Pluto, not fitting the new definition, was made a dwarf planet which needs to be round, a celestial body that orbits the sun, not a satellite, and does not have a clear neighborhood around its orbit.

What Do Other People Think?

"On one hand, I like for the eight to have exclusivity, because you need to have certain characteristics to be a planet. It shows kids that some things do have to change. We need to teach modern science and use the new definitions, but on the other hand, I'd like to stick with tradition, let Pluto be grandfathered in.” Scientist, teachers, and regular people all have their opinions on Pluto’s demotion; it is good that the term planet was finally defined, or asking ‘why change something that has been around for so long?’ Rich Hogen, for instance, thinks, "It's exciting. It's a chance to teach kids that this is the nature of science. Things are always changing." The university in New Mexico however feels differently and have been protesting the demotion arguing the fact that “only about 400 of the union's thousands of members were present when the Aug. 24 vote was taken.” This was not a statement by the astronomical community at large.”

Although that is a very good reason for protesting the demotion of Pluto, it is not the only reason. "Clyde Tombaugh was an American hero," said Herb Beebe, a longtime colleague. "For that reason alone, Pluto's status as a full-fledged planet should be kept." Which shows that there are more reasons pertaining to this issue that my not have been considered by the IAU. Astronomers who were not present when Pluto was demoted are becoming angry at the decision and bringing out wonderful points. "I was not allowed to vote because I was not in a room in Prague on Thursday 24th. Of 10,000 astronomers, 4% were in that room - you can't even claim consensus.”

The Effects from the Demotion of Pluto

Pluto’s demotion has had many effects; some good, some bad. "The opportunity far outweighs the inconveniences of renaming a planet.” That however is only one man’s opinion, because this demotion may make people more aware of Pluto. It may be a good thing that scientists are asking themselves more questions about the universe, or that they have realized there are bigger things then Pluto in the Kuiper Belt. Though this demotion could also be bad. Kids will be taught less about Pluto in school, everything older people have learned about Pluto’s status is wrong and they will have to relearn it, “Instructors who taught for years that our solar system has nine planets will have to spend some time brushing up on the new categories.” In my opinion, the good and the bad balance each other out. The way it was before Pluto was demoted would have been better for everyone if they would have just left it alone and not added or taken away anything. That way, not as many people would have been upset by the demotion.

Pluto was demoted because it did not have one of the characteristics that make up the new definition of a planet. Pluto was once a planet that caused a lot of conflict, and is now a dwarf planet that causes a lot of conflict. Demoting Pluto did not solve anything, it just made a lot of people mad. Many Astronomers were in Prague (where they voted) and only 424 were allowed to vote, which is making the majority angry. However, some say that the good news out ways the bad. Pluto’s demotion has gotten a lot of peoples attention and, even though the good may out way the bad, Pluto’s demotion may not be permanent.

Shelby Cook
Biology 412
June 21, 2007

I think you will agree, Shelby did a wonderful job. A big congratulations, Shelby, to a job well done.

By way of introduction, here are the emails we received from Shelby.

5/23/07 - Hello
i am doing a project on pluto's demotion and i was wondering if you could elaborate on the subject
shelby cook

5/24/07 - Hi Debra
Thank-you for emailing me back so quickly. I would love to send you a copy of my finished project, however it is not going to be done for some time.the web site you gave was really helpful and I am able to use it in my project. I have been researching pluto's demotion the last couple of weeks and I didn't come across the fact that the University of New Mexico has launched a campaign to reinstate Pluto as a planet so I was wondering if you could direct me to some helpful web sites or explain how they are going about campaigning for the reinstatement of Pluto. 

5/25/07 - Hi Debra,
I didn't even think to try google for the University of New Mexico so thank you for directing me towards it. There are alot of different parts to my project that I have to do and they are due throughout the month but my term paper isn't due till June 21. It is for AP biology we were assigned an article from the discover magazine top 100 science stories of 2006 for now I think I have all the information I need but if you you would like to see some of the different parts of my project i would be happy to send them to you though some of the stuff Ican't because I didn't do it on the computer. Heres a list of the different parts of the project i have to do: Term Paper, Video, Artistic Rendition, Comics, Repercusssions, Newspaper, Class Disscussion, Model, Poster, Poem

5/30/07 - Hi Debra
I am a sophomore girl in high school, the AP in AP biology just stands for Advanced Placement, it's a college course just in high school if i pass the AP exam that we study for all year and take it at the end of the year then i will receive college credit and the reason i am doing a astronomy story is because we got to choose what story we wanted to do and i am much more interested in astronomy then i am in biology.

Please note, the papers on this site are for your enjoyment only and are not peer reviewed. When originally written, they included citations. These have been removed to protect the innocent and to deter plagiarism. Also, please note that this site is monitored by Turnitin.com.

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