Night Vision—Dwarf Planets

Posted May 6, 2019 - by Sam Miles

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Largest Dwarf Planets
A look at the largest known dwarf planets in the Solar System. (Image credit: Credits: Konkoly Observatory/András Pál, Hungarian Astronomical Association/Iván Éder, NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI)

Pluto, even to this day, has been a point of controversy. Some of us who were taught in school that the Solar System has nine planets felt betrayed in 2006 when Pluto was reclassified as a dwarf planet. Now poor little Pluto is all alone in the cosmos.

Except that that isn’t true at all.

Pluto is not alone, and it was that very discovery that prompted us to reevaluate our perspective. Did you ever wonder why scientists up and decided to reclassify Pluto in the first place? It wasn’t out of the blue. It came on the heels of discovering another distant icy world, Pluto’s long lost cousin, Eris. All of a sudden we had these two objects that bore more resemblance to one another than Pluto ever did with the rest of the planets. Then we remembered the tiny world Ceres, nestled into the asteroid belt, and we realized that it too seemed to fit into this emerging category.

And so the designation of “Dwarf Planet” was conceived. Now we have five objects classified as dwarf planets, with Pluto as their poster-child. Even more may be on the horizon as we continue to make new discoveries. They may be small, but these are fascinating worlds in their own right. So come join this Thursday and Saturday to explore some of the lesser-known spheres orbiting our Sun, the Dwarf Planets.

Join presenter Sam Miles on Thursday, May 9th, for this week's Night Vision. Tickets are just $2.00 per person for the public, and free for members of Clark Planetarium. You can get them here.

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