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Solar Wind Interaction Suggests Pluto Not a Planet Nor a Comet But a 'Hybrid'

May 09, 2016 10:43 AM EDT
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Pluto No Longer Classified As A Planet
The New Horizons mission brought back tons of data to be scrutinized by scientists. Initial findings suggest that Pluto is not a planet nor a comet but a hybrid because it doesn't follow a specific pattern when interacting with solar winds.
(Photo : NASA via Getty Images)

In 2006, Pluto was demoted to a dwarf planet because of its behavior and the elements around it. But the NASA New Horizon mission brought back a ton of data which are currently being interpreted by scientists, and the findings  suggest that Pluto is not a planet, or a comet but a hybrid because it doesn't fall under a specific category.

Some of the findings were published last week in the Journal of Geophysical Research and it is stated that the interaction of Pluto with solar wind is nothing the Earth have seen before in our Solar System, making Pluto a hybrid.

"The results are astonishing. We were fascinated and surprised," said lead author David J. McComas. McComas also manage the Solar Wind Around Pluto (SWAP) instrument aboard the New Horizon.

"We've now visited all nine of the classical planets and examined all their solar wind interactions, and we've never seen anything like this" added McComas.

Solar wind is plasma with charged particles which tears away from the Sun, usually at 100 million miles per hour and have the capacity to succumb everything in its path.

Solar wind interacts with planets and comets in different manners. When it hit a comet, the solar wind slows down while if it hits a planet, the solar wind will divert. But Pluto, which technically neither a planet or a comet, reacts differently with solar winds.

"This is an intermediate interaction, a completely new type. It's not comet-like, and it's not planet-like. It's in-between," said Dr. McComas. These findings led scientists to suggest that Pluto is a hybrid, or an entirely new celestial entity.

The careful scrutinies of New Horizon's data have just begun and scientists are eager to find out more about the hybrid entity in our solar system.

While NASA haven't declared Pluto as a hybrid, they said its behavior is definitely unique. They confirmed that it behaves less likely of a comet and again shows signs of being a planet - creating an entirely new pattern they haven't seen before. 

"Pluto behaves less like a comet than expected and somewhat more like a planet like Mars or Venus in the way it interacts with the solar wind, a continuous stream of charged particles from the sun" said NASA in the same report mentioned above.

Experts from the New Horizon are surprised at how much information they are learning from Pluto and the fact that they might be dealing with an entirely new celestial entity.

"These results speak to the power of exploration. Once again we've gone to a new kind of place and found ourselves discovering entirely new kinds of expressions in nature," said SwRI's Alan Stern, New Horizons principal investigator.

 

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