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Dwarf Planets

  • Dwarf Planets

    In 2006, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) made a decision that changed the way we organize our solar system. The IAU announced the removal of Pluto from the list of planets. They reclassified Pluto as a dwarf planet. Instead of nine, we now have only eight planets in our solar system. Q How is a dwarf planet different from other planets? A According to the IAU’s new definition, a planet is a space object that orbits the Sun and has a nearly round shape. Its gravity must be strong enough to clear all other space objects (except satellites) out of its orbit. Dwarf planets also orbit the Sun and have a nearly round shape. But other space objects nearby are not cleared by the gravity of the dwarf planets. They are not big enough for their gravitational fields to do this. Dwarf planets are different from satellites, which orbit a planet and not the Sun. Promoted Since 2006, Ceres is classified as a dwarf planet. Before that, it was simply the largest of the many asteroids that lie between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. Pluto’s moon Pluto (left) and its moon Charon actually go around each other, rather than Charon going around Pluto. Scientists may soon reclassify Charon as dwarf planet.

    Q How many dwarf planets are there in the solar system? A Apart from Pluto, Ceres and Eris (UB313) have also been classified as dwarf planets. Until recently, Ceres was called the largest asteroid. It has a diameter of about 950 kilometres (600 miles) and is in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. Eris is the largest of all the dwarf planets. It has a diameter of about 3,000 kilometres (1,850 miles). Q Are there any other dwarf planets? A Scientists are considering including Pluto’s moon Charon among the dwarf planets. Charon does not actually go around Pluto – they revolve around each other. The planetoid Sedna and the asteroids Vesta, Pallas and Hygiea are also being considered.