Is Pluto still a planet?

Although Pluto was downgraded by astronomers from planet status in 2006, there is still much debate about the matter. 

Recently , NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine declared that, in his opinion, Pluto is still a planet.   Bridenstine was speaking at a FIRST Robotics event in Colorado.

“Just so you know, in my view, Pluto is a planet, and you can write that the NASA Administrator declared Pluto a planet once again” stated Bridenstine.

Pluto as photographed by New Horizons

A Galaxy Dance in Outer Space

UGC 2369 galaxy pair in space

Every few billion years, a momentous event occurs in the universe, an event such as the merging if two galaxies.  This happens when galaxies move closer to each other and accelerate towards one another due to their mutual gravitational attraction.  It is estimated that around four billion years from now, our own galaxy, the Milky Way, will drift too close to it’s nearest neighbour, the Andromeda galaxy and the two will merge into one.

In this picture, taken by the Hubble telescope, we can see two distant galaxies, known as the UGC2369 pair, in the process of intertwining and merging together.  This is why they appear to be an unusual shape.  It is a fascinating phenomenon, considering that each of these two galaxies is made up of millions and millions of stars and planets hung in space.

UGC-2369-galaxy pair in space

Image credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA, A. Evans

America’s National Aeronautical and Space Administration

NASA Building

With the establishment of NASA in 1958, eight main objectives were set for the new space agency.  According to NASA, these included, “the expansion of human knowledge of phenomena in the atmosphere and space,” along with, “the development and operation of vehicles capable of carrying instruments, equipment, supplies and living organisms through space.”

Also listed as a primary objective was, “the preservation of the role of the United States as a leader in aeronautical and space science and technology and in the application thereof to the conduct of peaceful activities within and outside the atmosphere.”

The ORIGINS of NASA

The Missions of NASA