The Largest Asteroid Doesn’t Quite Cut It As a Planet

January 28, 2015 4:14 PM

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The Largest Asteroid Doesn’t Quite Cut It As a Planet

From a distance, Ceres might look a bit like any other planet you might see. It’s spherical, after all, and that’s one of the biggest requirements of planethood. But put it next to any other planet and you would quickly see that it is seriously tiny. It’s not even 1/5th the size of Mercury, which is the tiniest planet in the Solar System. This small size is one of the reasons why Ceres is classified as a dwarf planet.

Its location, floating amongst thousands of bits of other space rock in the Asteroid Belt, is another clue that it hasn’t reached full planethood. For a space object to be honored with the title ‘planet,’ it has to have enough gravity to clear away all the junk around it. But, alas, poor Ceres can’t...

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