BEACON TRANSCRIPT – Ever since Pluto’s demotion from planet to dwarf planet, the debate has raged as to what the actual definition for “planet” should be.
However, one intrepid astrophysicist has proposed a new definition for such space objects that might clear up this confusion.
With the discovery of numerous exoplanets outside our own solar system, a better classification system for what planets truly are has been in need for some time.
Astrophysicist Proposes New Definition for Planet
According to International Astronomical Union regulations, planets are defined as space bodies orbiting our Sun. They also have to be spherical in shape and to have a clear surrounding orbit.
This, of course, would not apply to any exoplanets, as they orbit other stars. Some planet-like objects are even in orbit outside of solar systems entirely. Additionally, objects smaller than stars but big enough to perform deuterium fusion would be classed as brown dwarfs, not planets.
Because of all this, a revised definition is a necessity as humanity continues to explore the universe. Kevin Schlaufman, an astrophysicist at Johns Hopkins University, may have a solution, however.
He advocates observing an object’s surroundings to figure out what to classify it as. Seeing what surrounds an object could offer clues as to what it’s made from. It might also reveal how it was formed (core accretion for planets and gravitational collapse for stars). This would help distinguish between planets and brown dwarfs.
Additionally, Schlaufman outlined in the same paper in which he proposed these identification keys that observing the central star in a solar system could also reveal key details about what orbits them. This could be achieved based on the materials that make them up.
Through intense observation of numerous space objects, Schlaufman found that objects with a mass ten times that of Jupiter were unlikely to be planets. Typically, they turn out to be brown dwarfs. Though not a perfect rule, he concluded that this was the most common cutoff point between brown dwarfs and planets.
While more research will be required before any official definitions can be presented, Professor Schlaufman’s work is nonetheless helping relieve some of the uncertainty with what to classify objects in space as.
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