- Solar System Objects
- Planetary Objects
- Planetary Processes
- Planetary Miscellaneous
1. Why is Pluto classified as a "dwarf" planet rather than some other label? It’s confusing.
2. So is Pluto really a planet, a dwarf planet, or what is it?
3. If Pluto isnt a planet, then what are the characteristics of a planet?
1. From an educational perspective, humans (including scientists) classify objects in order to understand the world around us; we classify things from very early in life: shape, size, color, etc. Good science is done the same way. It helps us understand the nature of our world, look for differences (which may be significant), and helps us communicate our ideas to others.
2. There may be more than one way to classify Pluto and other objects, but to most planetary scientists, Pluto has many of the characteristics of what we picture as a planet (please note that no planet may have all of these characteristics): enough gravity to make it round, an atmosphere, warm enough interior so that in the past (and maybe the present) its surface is "active" with volcanoes, etc. Pluto and perhaps some of the other dwarf planets have many of these planet-like characteristics and as such, should be considered planets.
3. So, the bottom line is that Pluto has been reclassified as a dwarf planet. While the IAU would say that it is not a planet, the scientists who study planets would disagree and call Pluto the first of a new class of planets called dwarf planets that have many of the characteristics of the eight big planets (what we call the terrestrial planets and gas giants).
It is all how you classify and you cannot look at just one property in order to classify something.