The rise and fall of Pluto
In 2006, the International Astronomical Union revoked Plutoâ€™s planetary status and inflamed Americans -- astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson explains what went down.
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When the planet formerly known as Pluto got downgraded, Americans overwhelmingly rallied to its defense. Now called a Plutoid, it forever has a place, if not in the planetary hierarchy, in Americans' hearts.
Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson was at the frontline of Pluto’s reclassification and he’s captured what he calls the “demotion commotion” in a new book: "The Pluto Files: The Rise and Fall of America’s Favorite Planet." He joins "The Takeaway" to talk about what went down when Pluto went down.
Dr. Tyson talks about the public uproar around the downgrading of Pluto: "So there they were just pouring out their feelings and their thoughts on this decision, and this went on for years and years and years, and what was fascinating to me was the extent to which people just chose up sides and started fighting about it with each other on blogs. And then my name would be brought in and dragged through the mud, but then praised by some who said, 'look, get over it ... science is pushing forward."
According to Dr. Tyson, Pluto was reclassified because it just wasn't a well-behaved planet: "Pluto was just odd in every measurable way. There are seven moons in the solar system bigger than Pluto, so it's the smallest. It's mostly made of ice by volume, so heat from the sun would evaporate it if it got ... Earth distance from the sun, it would grow a tail ... what kind of behavior is that for a planet? That's just misbehaving. And its orbit is so elongated that it actually crosses the orbit of Neptune -- no other planet crosses anybody else's orbit. And the orbit is tipped out of the plane of the solar system.
"So, you add up all the data and you find out that actually, Pluto is an odd planet, but a very well-behaved version of [a] new species that has been discovered ... and so really, Pluto rather than being an odd planet, is a very normal looking frozen body in the outer solar system -- that's our reorganization of it."
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