The demotion of Pluto as a planet in 2006 was one of the most controversial events in astronomy. A planetary scientist who was the most vocal about the celestial object's demotion now says he's found a planet that deserves to be recognized.
Caltech astronomer Mike Brown thinks he's found evidence of a planet in the Kuiper Belt roughly 2.7 billion miles from Earth, reports The Daily Beast. He explained to the publication that the object might be "six times more massive than Earth."
Pluto was controversially delisted as a planet as a result of Brown's work. The International Astronomical Union, a leading organization for astronomers and planetary scientists, asked him 15 years ago to redefine "planet" after he discovered Eris in the Kuiper Belt.
“After we discovered Eris, and realized that Eris is more massive than Pluto, you’ve got to do something,” he said to the BBC in July. Since there are probably a bunch of objects bigger than Pluto out there, he feared it would eventually lead to a glut of planets being labeled as planets - so changed the definition of planets.
The redefinition reclassified Pluto as a dwarf planet. A lot of scientists didn't like Brown's decision, even though they respected him.
"He's wrong about Pluto," NASA's New Horizons investigator Alan Stern told The Daily Beast, later wondering, "Do we have eight states in the US so kids don't have to memorize all 50? Do we limit the number of species?”
Despite this, Stern and his fellow Caltech astronomer Konstantin Batygin are confident that their latest discovery will likely be accepted as a planet without controversy — if it turns out to exist that is.
“There is gravitational evidence for it,” Batygin said to The Daily Beast. “But the search will not conclude until we have an image in hand.”
We’ll see though. For some reason, we feel there’s a distinct possibility some disgruntled astronomers might still be holding a grudge against Brown’s planet-killing past.
Update: A previous version of this story misstated the distance of the potential new planet from Earth. It has been updated.
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