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Neil deGrasse Tyson denies he's a 'Pluto hater' on Twitter

Scientists on Twitter make a case for Pluto's worthiness as a planet following NASA's historic New Horizons fly by.

Scientists combat celebrity astrophysicist's snark with mind-blowing #PlutoFacts after historic NASA fly by

As Pluto rose to the forefront of the news agenda, Tyson took to Twitter to set the record straight on his thoughts about the planetary body. Sort of. (Twitter/@neiltyson)

Pluto may be freezing cold, but the most-buzzworthy dwarf planet in our solar system is red-hot right now in terms of space news.

NASA's New Horizons spacecraft is thought to have finally reached the icy planetary body for the first time this morning during a historic fly by nearly 10 years in the making.

Scientists must wait until around 9 p.m. ET Tuesday for the probe's signal to hit Earth and confirm the mission's success, but new images released in the days leading up to NASA's fly by have already sparked some intense online discussions about Pluto's planetary status.

Pluto was famously downgraded from a planet to a dwarf planet in 2006, though, as the Associated Press reports, NASA officials hope their new observations will help "restore Pluto's honour."

Celebrity astrophysicist and all-around internet icon Neil deGrasse Tyson is often associated with Pluto's original fall from grace, and has spoken at length about why he feels it shouldn't be classified as a full planet.

While Tyson has stated that the decision wasn't his alone, apparent fans of Pluto have sent him enough hate mail since 2006 to fill an entire book.

Many have also taken to calling him the "Pluto killer" or "Pluto hater."

As Pluto rose to the forefront of the news agenda this month, Tyson took to Twitter (among other outlets) to set the record straight on his thoughts about the planetary body.

The series of Twitter rants appear to have started on July 8, after Tyson tweeted a link to a New Horizons fly by timeline and subsequently received a torrent of replies accusing him, once again, of killing Pluto.

Just a few minutes after tweeting the timeline, Tyson published the following image of himself with Disney's cartoon dog Pluto and the caption, "Just an FYI: Pluto and I buried the hatchet a long time ago. And we've been pals ever since."

A second photo of Tyson with Pluto followed.

On Sunday, the astrophysicist started tweeting about the dwarf planet again, writing "What the Twitterverse needs right now is even more Pluto. Give me some space..."

He then launched into a series of tweets that included the hashtag #PlutoFacts, sharing dozens of pieces of information that appeared to lend credence to his own assertion that Pluto isn't a planet like the other eight in our solar system.

The later part of the tweet stream focuses on facts about Disney's Pluto the dog, as well as on Tyson's own association with the planet.

"#PlutoFacts: Was an accessory in the 'demotion' of Pluto. But I didn't pull the trigger," he wrote. "#PlutoFacts: I wrote 'The Pluto Files' book in recovery after years of hate-mail from school children."

While the #PlutoFacts hashtag was in existence before Tyson using it, it didn't explode on Twitter until he popularised it Sunday. As of Tuesday afternoon, it had accumulated more than 20,000 posts.

Some have used #PlutoFacts to criticize (and praise) Tyson's own criticism, but many more are using it to share actual facts (and jokes) about the dwarf planet.

Whether intentionally or not, scientists are making their own case for why the option of reinstating Pluto as a planet shouldn't necessarily be overlooked (and also why no human would ever want to visit.)

Regardless of what happens with Pluto's status in the future, Tyson appears unfazed by the digital jeers. His most recent tweet indicates that he, like many others, is simply more impressed by NASA's achievement than anything else.

 

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