What if Pluto suddenly disappears

90 years of Pluto discovery - Pluto: Once upon a time there was a planet

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The ninth planet: On February 18, 1930, Pluto was the last planet discovered. It was allowed to keep its status as a planet until 2006. Then he was declared a dwarf planet.

Pluto is the Roman god of the underworld, the dog of Disney's Mickey Mouse - or a former planet in the solar system. Formerly not because it disappeared from our solar system. Pluto is still orbiting our sun. But since 2006 astronomers have stopped referring to it as a planet.

Its discovery was no accident

The then ninth planet was discovered on February 18, 1930 by researchers at the Lowell Observatory in the USA.

It was not a coincidence: astronomers had already speculated that a large chunk would have to orbit the sun. The trajectory of Neptune, its neighboring planet, was repeatedly disturbed by the force of attraction.

Regular observations had taken place since the beginning of the 20th century in order to get to the bottom of these disturbances.

On February 18, 1930, the time had come: the 24-year-old astronomer Clyde Tombaugh aimed the telescope at the right place and discovered Pluto, which had been long sought. Like all other planets in the solar system - except our earth - it is named after a Roman god.

It's freezing cold on Pluto

Pluto is much smaller than the so-called gas giants Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune and also has a solid surface made of ice. Because it orbits so far from the Sun, it is so cold on Pluto that even its nitrogen atmosphere freezes from time to time.

It is assumed that temperatures below 200 degrees Celsius are in the minus range. The absolute zero point is minus 273 degrees.

Suddenly he was a dwarf

From then on, nine planets officially revolved around the sun. But at the end of the century, doubts arose as to whether Pluto actually deserved planetary status.

In the 1990s, researchers discovered other objects that orbited the sun in a similar trajectory and size as Pluto. So Pluto was just lucky that it was discovered first. In addition, until 2006 there was no scientific definition for a planet.

In 2006 this was made up for in order to prevent a planetary glut. Pluto - like its later discovered relatives - became a so-called dwarf planet. A total of five of them are known to this day.

Since they are difficult to discover, it is assumed that there are numerous other dwarf planets that are on the move in the solar system. So even without its planetary status, Pluto is in good company - simply in another.

Broadcast: Radio SRF 4 News, daily chronicle, February 18, 2020, 9:17 a.m.

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  • Comment from Hans Leuenberger (hansle)
    Sorry. But what does this article actually bring to mankind today on planet earth. What does this research finally change in the human mind that it comes to other thoughts instead of power, greed and arrogance, with which it believes it has a right to kill others!
    Agree agree to the comment
  • Comment from Dominik Kessler (dominikk)
    Sorry Mr. Koller, but you have to go over this article again. Some things are not right there. First of all, it has flaws like "In the 1990s, researchers discovered other objects that orbited the earth in a similar trajectory and size as Pluto." This should probably read "orbited the sun". And they imply that it lost its status as a planet in 2006 because it is smaller than Earth's moon and orbits in an elliptical orbit. But these are not the reasons ...
    Agree agree to the comment
    1. answer from SRF Culture (SRF)
      @ Dominik Kessler Thanks for the hint - we have corrected the error. The misleading phrase «On the one hand, it is too small - smaller than our Earth's moon. On the other hand, it does not orbit in an approximate circle around the sun, but in a strong ellipse », which implies false reasons for the deprivation of the planetary status, we have also removed.
      Agree agree to the comment
    2. answer from Dominik Kessler (dominikk)
      Thank you SRF. For completeness: An object in our solar system is classified as a planet if:
      a. he has an orbit around the sun
      b. Its mass is large enough to be approximately spherical
      c. It is the dominant object in its orbit, which has largely cleared surrounding objects with its gravitational field.

      Pluto fulfills the first two points, but is surrounded by numerous bodies (such as asteroids) and is therefore not a planet.
      Agree agree to the comment
    3. Show answers

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