What Distinguishes Dwarf Planets From Planets?
In 2006, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) created a new category of celestial bodies known as “dwarf planets.” This new category included Pluto, which was previously classified as the ninth planet in our solar system. So, what distinguishes dwarf planets from planets? Let’s explore this question in more detail.
One of the primary differences between dwarf planets and planets is size. Planets are typically larger and more massive than dwarf planets. According to the IAU, a planet is a celestial body that orbits the sun, is round or nearly round, and has cleared its orbit of other debris. In contrast, a dwarf planet is also a celestial body that orbits the sun, is round or nearly round, but has not cleared its orbit of other debris. This means that dwarf planets are smaller and less massive than planets.
Number Of Moons On Dwarf Planets
Another difference between planets and dwarf planets is the number of moons they have. Planets tend to have more moons than dwarf planets. For example, Jupiter has 79 known moons, while Pluto has five. Moons are essential because they help to stabilize a planet’s orbit and contribute to its overall gravitational pull. In contrast, dwarf planets do not have enough mass to hold onto many moons, making them less stable.
Location Of Dwarf Planet In The Solar System
Planets and dwarf planets also differ in their location within the solar system. The eight planets in our solar system are divided into two groups: the inner planets and the outer planets. The inner planets are Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars, and they are located closer to the sun. The outer planets are Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune, and they are located farther from the sun. In contrast, dwarf planets are located in various parts of the solar system, and they do not fit neatly into the inner or outer planet categories.
Shape And Composition
Planets and dwarf planets also differ in their shape and composition. Planets tend to be larger and have a more diverse composition than dwarf planets. For example, the inner planets are primarily composed of rock and metal, while the outer planets are mostly composed of gas and ice. In contrast, dwarf planets tend to be smaller and have a more homogeneous composition. For example, Pluto is primarily composed of rock and ice.
In conclusion, dwarf planets and planets differ in several ways. Dwarf planets tend to be smaller and less massive than planets, have fewer moons, and are located in various parts of the solar system. Additionally, they have not cleared their orbits of other debris, which is a defining characteristic of planets. While Pluto’s reclassification as a dwarf planet sparked controversy among astronomers and the public, the IAU’s decision to create this new category has helped to clarify the distinction between planets and dwarf planets. By understanding these differences, we can gain a better understanding of the complex and diverse nature of our solar system.
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