Because my good friend and incredible astronomy student Phillip Dowdell (featured below) is so deeply intrigued by the planet Pluto and truly considers himself Pluto’s biggest fan, I figured that it was in my best interest to not only dedicate this blog post to him and his intense efforts to argue for Pluto’s being reinstated as a planet but also to finally do my due diligence and research what makes this (former) planet stand out from the rest of the remaining planets.
Anyways, back to the topic at hand. In my research, I uncovered a horde of interesting facts (again, featured below) about Pluto from NASA that may shed light on why its planetary status may have been revoked. After thorough exploration and debate, I understand why Pluto is no longer considered to be a planet in our Solar System but also appreciate it more for what it is. I also do think that Pluto’s reduction to a Dwarf Planet does say a lot about how important labels can be to the astronomy community as they are important signifiers that often carry a lot of weight.
Pluto is (at the time of the publishing of this post) 3,161,356,308 miles away from the Sun, slightly below its average orbit distance.
A year on Pluto is the equivalent of 90,530 days on Earth.
Pluto is 5.5 times smaller than Earth.
It was first discovered in 1930 by Clyde Tombaugh.
It’s surface gravity is 0.66 m/s^2 which is just under 15 times less than Earth’s.
Because of it’s lower gravity, Pluto’s escape velocity is 2,751 mph, just over 9 times smaller than Earth’s required 25,031 mph.
We all live on a planet that is billions of years old that has undergone billions of years of pressure, shifting and erosion, shaping it into what it looks like today. The movement of plates is not significant on a human timeline, but has still be the cause of so much movement over millions of years. This is not a game that humans should be trying to win at, the Earth will outlive each human by billions of years. The time frames are just so different. Continents have been both built and split completely in two. Tectonics act as a conveyor belt, smashing parts of one plate into another. Additionally, the Earth also tears itself apart in the form of earthquakes, devastating settlers.
Something that has truly always interested me is the question of what happens to spacecraft after they are done with their mission. Obviously they float through space but who knows what really happens to each individual craft? Is there a rover that was once patrolling Mars that has made it past Pluto? It’s fascinating that although we understand a lot about space, especially when compared to 100 years ago, but still are relatively clueless about the world we live in. This all reminds me of a Star Trek movie I watched a while ago where the enemy alien species bowed down to a god named “Veeger,” which was really a Voyager probe that had had some letters scratched off.
I have always found it interesting to think about what life would have looked like when famous and accomplished scientists like Isaac Newton and Galileo Galilei made some of their groundbreaking discoveries that changed the world. Nowadays there are millions of people working on research and discovery and we, as a planet, seem to have the infrastructure to support these new developments but there is still a consistent theme of past scientists, like those mentioned above, being challenged by the society around them and often not being credited for their work at all until numerous years after their deaths.
Those, at least the majority of people, who live today have the existing mediums to publish their work and seemingly don’t have the same struggle that those who came prior did.
I think that it’s absolutely fascinating to think and learn about the vast size and scale of the universe. Everybody’s been told that their problems aren’t important in the grand scheme of things and while getting a C on a test might ruin your day, your life probably isn’t going to change course because of it. But it is absolutely fascinating to me to take this a few steps further.
Expanding your view exponentially to everything going wrong right now in the city you live in changes the relevant discussion from a bad grade to something like the amount of debt that Nashville is in, a topic that my roommate and I just randomly discussed. Expanding your view again to the country you’re in or even the entire planet can make your life feel entirely irrelevant and unimportant. While in the grand scheme of things, you’re still just a speck of dust on a planet that is even tiny compared to other planets in our solar system as in the graphic below, you cannot lose sight of the meaning of your individual life. That said, the universe is so much bigger than even our solar system so we’re likely even smaller than we had initially thought.
Thank you for reading my musings on how unimportant we each are in the grand scheme of things. I hope it wasn’t too overwhelming.