THE ONE OBJECT IN OUR SOLAR SYSTEM THAT HAS BEEN BOTH A PLANET AND AN ASTEROID

BY MICHAEL GRIFFIN/OCT. 5, 2021

Marc Ward/Shutterstock

There are many things whizzing around our solar system besides the planets. There are asteroids and comets. Most of the time they are all properly classified, but there are times when things can change. According to Space, Pluto went from being a planet to a dwarf planet, which changed the way people remembered the order of the planets — from “My Very Eager Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas” to “My Very Eager Mother Just Served Us Nachos,” which disappointed pizza lovers.

Pluto is not the only one to have its designation changed. NASA tells about Ceres, which went from being an asteroid to a dwarf planet. Ceres was first deemed an asteroid in 1801 when the astronomer Giuseppe Piazzi saw it through a telescope. It resides in the asteroid belt, so it makes sense that it was first considered to be an asteroid. This was its classification for the next 205 years until scientists changed it to a dwarf planet.

THE DAWN SPACE PROBE AND CERES

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Another thing about Ceres, according to National Geographic, is that it is geographically alive. In a 2015 mission where a probe named Dawn found water on its surface — a briny kind. Apparently, running water may have also frozen on it, causing hills and mountains of ice. Scientists also think that there is a deeper reservoir of water under the surface. There may have been conditions for life at one point, and it may even have some clues about its past on it.

NASA has more facts about Ceres, whose size at 296 miles is smaller than Pluto and the Earth’s moon. However, it is still the biggest thing in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, which is why it became a dwarf planet instead of an asteroid. Its orbit takes a little over four-and-a-half Earth years. It rotates pretty fast, though, in a mere nine hours. The name comes from the Roman goddess of grain crops and harvest — cereal also comes from her name.

Ceres remains a place of interest for scientists since they know that it is one of the denizens of the solar system that has markers for life. They will likely decide to visit it again in the not-too-distant future to learn more about it and build upon the information that they got from Dawn. As far as its designation goes, chances are extremely low that its status will ever be changed back to an asteroid.

Definitions

What is the simple definition of a planet?

A planet is a celestial body that (a) is in orbit around the Sun, (b) has sufficient mass for its self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces so that it assumes a hydrostatic equilibrium (nearly round) shape, and (c) has cleared the neighborhood around its orbit.

What is dwarf planet?

A dwarf planet is a type of space object that is smaller than a regular planet. Dwarf planets are spherical (round), but they have smaller space objects nearby them (unlike a planet). Pluto is a dwarf planet because, although it is round, there is space junk floating around it.

What are asteroids?

Small rocky bodies orbiting the sun. Large numbers of these, ranging in size from nearly 600 miles (1,000 km) across (Ceres) to dust particles, are found (as the asteroid belt ) especially between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter, though some have more eccentric orbits, and a few pass close to the earth or enter the atmosphere as meteors.

What are 5 facts about the asteroid belt?

Image result for the asteroid belt
  • The asteroid belt was first discovered in 1801. …
  • The asteroid belt is a disc shape, located between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.
  • The asteroids are made of rock and metal and are all irregularly shaped.
  • The size of the objects within the asteroid belt range from being as small as a dust particle to almost 1000km wide.