Under new proposed system, our moon would become a planet

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Under New Proposed System, Our Moon Would Become A Planet

A UCLA professor has come up with a new way to determine if a body in space is, indeed, a planet.

And while his classification method seems much more streamlined than the current official guidelines, it would mean our moon would qualify as a planet itself.

Part of the impetus for a change is due to the ambiguity around the criteria established by the International Astronomical Union, or IAU, in 2006.

According to a UCLA news release, "The IAU's definition is based primarily on the ability of a planet to 'clear its orbit,' meaning whether it can evacuate, accumulate or dominate small bodies in its orbital neighborhood."

The planet must also orbit the sun and have a nearly round shape.

Many scientists view these parameters as being vague and limiting, as they exclude thousands of exoplanets from being classified.

See the solar system below:
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Under new proposed system, our moon would become a planet
IN SPACE - JANUARY 14: The planet Mercury is shown from a distance of approximately 17,000 miles, taken by NASA's Messenger spacecraft January 14, 2008 at the spacecraft's closest approach to planet. The image shows features as small as six miles in width. Similar to previously mapped portions of Mercury, this hemisphere appears heavily cratered. On the upper right is the giant Caloris basin, including its western portions never before seen by spacecraft. Formed by the impact of a large asteroid or comet, Caloris is one of the largest, and perhaps one of the youngest basins in the solar system. (Photo by NASA via Getty Images)
The Moon close-up on a black night sky shot through a telescope. Picture taken from the Russia, Moscow, May 4, 2012

Phobos seen by Mars Express

(Photo: ESA/Flickr

Deimos, the Littlest Moon

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This true-color simulated view of Jupiter is composed of 4 images taken by NASA's Cassini spacecraft on December 7, 2000. (Photo by: Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images)
This composite includes the four largest moons of Jupiter which are known as the Galilean satellites. Shown from left to right in order of increasing distance from Jupiter, Io is closest, followed by Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto. Galileo. (Photo by: Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images)
A giant of a moon appears before a giant of a planet undergoing seasonal changes in this natural color view of Titan and Saturn from NASA's Cassini spacecraft. (Photo by: Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images)
The sponge-like surface of Saturn's moon Hyperion is highlighted in this Cassini portrait. (Photo by: Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images)
The Cassini spacecraft examines the rough dark-light dichotomy of the terrain on Saturn's moon Iapetus. (Photo by: Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images)
NASA's Cassini spacecraft chronicles the change of seasons as it captures clouds concentrated near the equator of Saturn's largest moon, Titan. (Photo by: Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images)
The Cassini spacecraft looks at a brightly illuminated Enceladus and examines the surface of the leading hemisphere of this Saturnian moon. (Photo by: Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images)

Uranus

(Photo: NASA)

Neptune

(Photo: Getty)

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In response, Professor Jean-Luc Margot has developed a simple formula that integrates the mass of the body, its star, and the orbital time period.

He has omitted the shape requirement, saying, "When a body has sufficient mass to clear its orbital neighborhood, it also has sufficient mass to overcome material strength and pull itself into a nearly round shape."

While this system can apply to all exoplanets and the data points can be gained relatively easily through telescopes, it would mean that our moon would be considered a planet too.

However, he notes that the IAU doesn't currently have an established definition of 'satellite.' If and when one is established, differentiations between those masses and double planets can be addressed accordingly.
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