Group S Dwarf Planets

A dwarf planet is a planetary-mass object that is neither a planet nor a natural satellite. That is, it is in direct orbit of the Sun, and is massive enough for its gravity to crush itself into a hydrostatic equilibrium shape (usually a spheroid), but has not cleared the neighborhood of other material around its orbit.

The term dwarf planet was adopted in 2006 as part of a three-way categorization of bodies orbiting the Sun, brought about by an increase in discoveries of objects farther away from the Sun than Neptune that rivaled Pluto in size, and finally precipitated by the discovery of an even more massive object, Eris. The exclusion of dwarf planets from the roster of planets by the IAU has been both praised and criticized; it was said to be the "right decision" by astronomer Mike Brown, who discovered Eris and other new dwarf planets, but has been rejected by Alan Stern, who had coined the term dwarf planet in April 1991.

The International Astronomical Union (IAU) currently recognizes five dwarf planets: Ceres, Pluto, Haumea, Makemake, and Eris. Brown criticizes this official recognition: "A reasonable person might think that this means that there are five known objects in the solar system which fit the IAU definition of dwarf planet, but this reasonable person would be nowhere close to correct.

It is suspected that another hundred or so known objects in the Solar System are dwarf planets. Estimates are that up to 200 dwarf planets may be found when the entire region known as the Kuiper belt is explored, and that the number may exceed 10,000 when objects scattered outside the Kuiper belt are considered. Individual astronomers recognize several of these, and in August 2011 Mike Brown published a list of 390 candidate objects, ranging from "nearly certain" to "possible" dwarf planets. Brown currently identifies eleven known objects—the five accepted by the IAU plus 2007 OR10, Quaoar, Sedna, Orcus, (307261) 2002 MS4 and Salacia—as "virtually certain", with another dozen highly likely.[12] Stern states that there are more than a dozen known dwarf planets.

However, only two of these bodies, Ceres and Pluto, have been observed in enough detail to demonstrate that they actually fit the IAU's definition. The IAU accepted Eris as a dwarf planet because it is more massive than Pluto. They subsequently decided that unnamed trans-Neptunian objects with an absolute magnitude brighter than +1 (and hence a diameter of ≥838 km assuming a geometric albedo of ≤1) are to be named under the assumption that they are dwarf planets. The only two such objects known at the time, Makemake and Haumea, went through this naming procedure and were declared to be dwarf planets. The question of whether other likely objects are dwarf planets has never been addressed by the IAU.

The classification of bodies in other planetary systems with the characteristics of dwarf planets has not been addressed.

Starting in 1801, astronomers discovered Ceres and other bodies between Mars and Jupiter which were for some decades considered to be planets. Between then and around 1851, when the number of planets had reached 23, astronomers started using the word asteroid for the smaller bodies and then stopped naming or classifying them as planets.

With the discovery of Pluto in 1930, most astronomers considered the Solar System to have nine planets, along with thousands of significantly smaller bodies (asteroids and comets). For almost 50 years Pluto was thought to be larger than Mercury, but with the discovery in 1978 of Pluto's moon Charon, it became possible to measure Pluto's mass accurately and to determine that it was much smaller than in initial estimates. It was roughly one-twentieth the mass of Mercury, which made Pluto by far the smallest planet. Although it was still more than ten times as massive as the largest object in the asteroid belt, Ceres, it was one-fifth that of Earth's Moon. Furthermore, having some unusual characteristics, such as large orbital eccentricity and a high orbital inclination, it became evident it was a completely different kind of body from any of the other planets.

In the 1990s, astronomers began to find objects in the same region of space as Pluto (now known as the Kuiper belt), and some even farther away. Many of these shared several of Pluto's key orbital characteristics, and Pluto started being seen as the largest member of a new class of objects, plutinos. This led some astronomers to stop referring to Pluto as a planet. Several terms, including subplanet and planetoid, started to be used for the bodies now known as dwarf planets. By 2005, three trans-Neptunian objects comparable in size to Pluto (Quaoar, Sedna, and Eris) had been reported. It became clear that either they would also have to be classified as planets, or Pluto would have to be reclassified. Astronomers were also confident that more objects as large as Pluto would be discovered, and the number of planets would start growing quickly if Pluto were to remain a planet.

Eris (then known as 2003 UB313) was discovered in January 2005, which was thought to be slightly larger than Pluto, and some reports informally referred to it as the tenth planet. As a consequence, the issue became a matter of intense debate during the IAU General Assembly in August 2006. The IAU's initial draft proposal included Charon, Eris, and Ceres in the list of planets. After many astronomers objected to this proposal, an alternative was drawn up by Uruguayan astronomer Julio Ángel Fernández, in which he created a median classification for objects large enough to be round but that had not cleared their orbits of planetesimals. Dropping Charon from the list, the new proposal also removed Pluto, Ceres, and Eris, because they have not cleared their orbits.

The IAU's final Resolution 5A preserved this three-category system for the celestial bodies orbiting the Sun. It reads:

The IAU … resolves that planets and other bodies, except satellites, in our Solar System be defined into three distinct categories in the following way:

(1) A planet1 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 neighbourhood around its orbit.
(2) A "dwarf 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,2 (c) has not cleared the neighbourhood around its orbit, and (d) is not a satellite.
(3) All other objects,3 except satellites, orbiting the Sun shall be referred to collectively as "Small Solar System Bodies."

1 The eight planets are: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune.
2 An IAU process will be established to assign borderline objects either dwarf planet or other status.
3 These currently include most of the Solar System asteroids, most Trans-Neptunian Objects (TNOs), comets, and other small bodies.
Although concerns were raised about the classification of planets orbiting other stars,[16] the issue was not resolved; it was proposed instead to decide this only when such objects start being observed.

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