Pluto Slayer: How One Man Changed the Perception of the Solar System

Pluto Slayer: How One Man Changed the Perception of the Solar System

It is surprising that many in the scientific community hate or are offended by Michael Brown for his discovery. It seems that in science such situations are something strange and rare. However, in the story, Brown is remembered as “Pluto slayer”.

The look of the killer

Pluto Slayer: How One Man Changed the Perception of the Solar System

Mike Brown (left) and Konstantin Batygin in his laboratory in Caltech

Michael Brown is a typical American astronomer scientist. In 2012, was actively engaged in studying the Kuiper belt, thanks to which he was able to find and describe several new celestial bodies. For this, he received a very prestigious Kavli award.

In 2016 together with Konstantin Batygin put forward the assumption of the existence of Planet X (Planet Nine), which it continues to search even now. As you can see, there is nothing bloodthirsty in this man, but only one of his findings changed our understanding of the solar system.

Discovery of Eris

Pluto Slayer: How One Man Changed the Perception of the Solar System

Comparison of Sedna sizes with other large trans-Neptunian objects and the Earth

Brown worked with a group of astronomers who systematically investigated trans-Neptune objects. Among their finds are large Sedna and Kvavar. In 2005 in research for the first time a mysterious 2003 UB313 flashed, which they managed to photograph in 2003. Brown used the 1.3-meter SMARTS telescope to re-search the celestial body and a few months later managed to provide data on the orbit and approximate parameters of the object. The temporary designation was later changed to “Eris”.

Pluto Slayer: How One Man Changed the Perception of the Solar System

Kvavar, filmed at the Palomar Observatory

But how to classify a new object? According to preliminary sizes, it was believed that Eris is larger than Pluto. Then this is the 10th planet of the solar system? Further discoveries found more and more strange large objects. When a dispute broke out between scientists, representatives of the International Astronomical Union (IAU) made their move.

Say Goodbye to Pluto

Pluto Slayer: How One Man Changed the Perception of the Solar System

Eris orbit

The first estimates of Eris were not entirely accurate, but the matter is also in the wrong parameters of Pluto. Researchers have always thought that its diameter reaches 2390 km, and that in Eris - 2600 km. However, as early as 2007, accurate figures were provided, where the diameter of Eris was 2326 (+/- 12) km, and y Pluto - 2370 (+ / -20) km.

In 2006, the famous debate about the planetary nature of Pluto arose. Is it possible to call it a planet? What is the status of Eris and other distant large objects? Michael Brown initially supported the idea of ​​changing status.

Pluto Slayer: How One Man Changed the Perception of the Solar System

Eris and Disnomia

MAS put forward the planets 3 main criteria, among which Pluto could not match one. His mass lacks to become the main gravitational influencing object in the vicinity (occupies only 7% of the mass of Kuiper belt objects).

Many called the demands ridiculous and argued for a long time, but could not change anything. Thus, Pluto since 2006 is considered one of the most famous dwarf planets. But Brown was nicknamed “Pluto’s killer” by the eyes. Although apparently it does not care about him, once in 2010 he released a book called “How I killed Pluto and why it was inevitable”.

Postscript

In the end, the decision to change the status of Pluto was made by representatives of the IAC, and not Brown, so you can’t put all the blame on it. And if he is to blame at all? Every day, new discoveries change our understanding of the world, so change is inevitable. What do you say?

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