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Before the discoveries

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1Before the discoveries Empty Before the discoveries on Thu Dec 16, 2010 3:02 pm


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Before the discoveries of the early 21st century, astronomers had no strong need for a formal definition of a planet. With the discovery of Pluto in 1930, astronomers considered the Solar System to have nine planets, along with thousands of significantly smaller bodies such as asteroids and comets. For almost 50 years Pluto was thought to be larger than Mercury,[12][13] but with the discovery in 1978 of Pluto's moon Charon, it became possible to measure the mass of Pluto accurately and it was determined that its actual mass was much smaller than the initial estimates.[14] 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.[15] 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.[16]

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