Not A Planet, Nor A Dwarf Planet, But Pluto Might Be A Giant Comet, Says Study
Ex-Planet, Pluto Might Be A Giant Comet, Says Planetary Scientists

Scientists are not leaving Pluto alone! First, they discredited his position in the planetary system, saying it is not good enough for a planet. Then, NASA declared Pluto is a dwarf planet. After that, there were uncountable theories about how Pluto might be just another object from the Kuiper Belt that went rogue. In addition, some strongly believe that why waste time on Pluto, it is just a big asteroid and nothing more than that. To make the matter worse, scientists said that Pluto is all these things­. Well people, make up your minds and just pick one!

Almost for 76 years, Pluto was recognized as the last planet in the earth’s solar system. However, one day, scientists declared a check-list for naming a plant. According to the criteria, a planet is a celestial body that (a) orbits around sun, (b) has sufficient mass for its self-gravity, and (c) has cleared vicinity around its orbit. Pluto got along with the first two conditions just fine. However, its orbit collides with Kuiper Belt Objects. Therefore, it was immediately relegated to a non-planet. Now, recently published study finds Pluto as the biggest comet in the solar system.

Scientists of the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) analyzed the data from NASA’s recent Horizons mission to the ex-planet, Pluto and the readings from the European Space Agency’s Rosetta mission that explored Comet 67P to understand the origin of Pluto. Christopher Glein and J. Hunter Waite Jr., the scientists of SwRI observed that the composition of Sputnik Planitia, the large, nitrogen-rich ice-covered basin on Pluto, is similar to the what Rosetta found on Comet 67P. Based on the observations, scientists have developed the “giant comet” cosmochemical model of Pluto formation.

Dr. Christopher Glein stated in press release, “We found an intriguing consistency between the estimated amount of nitrogen inside the glacier and the amount that would be expected if Pluto was formed by the agglomeration of roughly a billion comets or other Kuiper Belt objects similar in chemical composition to 67P, the comet explored by Rosetta.”

In addition to the “giant comet” model, scientists studied another model. It considers a possibility that Pluto made up of very cold ices that have chemical composition similar to the Sun. Apart from the formation Pluto, researchers want to understand how much volatile elements could leak out of Pluto’s the atmosphere into space over the ages. Furthermore, scientists want to figure out the building blocks of Pluto. Glein said that his research implies that Pluto’s initial chemical makeup, which is inherited from cometary building blocks, was chemically modified by liquid water. There are several constraints that the solar mode satisfies. However, the research points to several interesting possibilities along with countless unanswered questions. The detailed theory is published in the journal Icarus titles as “Primordial N2 provides a cosmochemical explanation for the existence of Sputnik Planitia, Pluto”.

The leaders of the study believe that with the help of chemistry as a detective tool, we can understand the formation of Pluto since its beginning. Moreover, the research can lead to new possibilities to understand Pluto’s life story, which we barely know. Well, this new discovery won’t be taken lightly by those, who cannot fathom the idea of Pluto as anything but a planet. However, if Pluto really is a comet, the world will recognize it as the biggest comet rather than the smallest planet of the solar system.

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