• Mon. Aug 8th, 2022

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Astronomers still can’t agree on what counts as a planet

In 2006, the International Astronomical Union came up with a new way to classify planets that famously saw Pluto downgraded. Now a new row has started as astronomers try to define exoplanets

Space 25 March 2022

Exoplanet

An artist’s impression of a Jupiter-like exoplanet

Shutterstock/Artsiom P

What is a planet? Despite decades of trying, astronomers still haven’t found a definition that everyone can agree on – and the problem only gets harder when considering worlds outside our solar system. The latest attempt to define an exoplanet has sparked fresh controversy.

The International Astronomical Union (IAU), arbiter of all things cosmic, set out a final definition for planets in our solar system in 2006, famously demoting Pluto to a dwarf planet in the process. Its first requirement is that a …