Runyon, whose doctoral dissertation focuses on changing landscapes on the moon and Mars, led a team of six researchers from five institutions in drafting a proposed new definition of "planet", and a justification for the new system of classification, which will be presented at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference's poster session.
There are now four recognized dwarf planets in the solar system other than Pluto, but NASA suspects there could be over 100 such objects that haven't yet been discovered.
According to Runyon and his team members a planet can be defined as "a sub stellar mass body that has never undergone any kind of nuclear fusion" which have enough gravitational mass in order to maintain roughly a round shape.
In particular, Runyon argues in a press release associated with the work that Pluto "has everything going on on its surface that you associate with a planet".More news: March Madness is back in VR, but it will cost you
These smaller planets, which now famously includes Pluto, are located in a region beyond the icy planet known as the Kuiper Belt. Pluto's recognition as a planet has been up for debate since it was discovered in 1930, and now, the entire definition of "planet" is in question.
"It really takes blinders to not look at the solar system and see the profound differences between the eight planets in their stately circular orbits and then the millions and millions of tiny bodies flitting in and out between the planets and being tossed around by them".
Astronomers want to reclassify Pluto as a planet again, according to the blog Universe Today. In 2015, New Horizon mission launched a spacecraft which was first one to fly nearby and around to Pluto, passing within 8000 miles and had send the first close up pictures of the surface of Pluto.
This definition differs from the IAU definition in that it makes no reference to the celestial body's surroundings. This is a point co-author of the definition S. Alan Stern, and the principal investigator for the New Horizons mission, has argued in the past. Well Pluto fits the IAU definition as it orbits around the Sun and it has large mass that the forces of gravity have made it round. Most are closely affiliated with geology and other geosciences, thus making the new geophysical definition more useful than the IAU's astronomical definition. This new definition would also elevate bodies such as Jupiter's moon Europa, the former main belt asteroid and current dwarf planet Ceres, and even Earth's Moon to the category of planet.
The other authors are Kelsi Singer of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado; Tod Lauer of the National Optical Astronomy Observatory in Tucson, Arizona; Will Grundy of the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona; Michael Summers of George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia.