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IAU Proposes 3 New Planets 316

IZ Reloaded writes "Sources tell SPACE.com that the International Astronomical Union is preparing to include three new entries to the current list of planets in our solar system. From the article: The asteroid Ceres, which is round, would be recast as a dwarf planet in the new scheme. Pluto would remain a planet and its moon Charon would be reclassified as a planet. Both would be called "plutons," however, to distinguish them from the eight "classical" planets. A far-out Pluto-sized object known as 2003 UB313 would also be called a pluton."
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IAU Proposes 3 New Planets

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  • by LiquidCoooled ( 634315 ) on Wednesday August 16, 2006 @08:24AM (#15918036) Homepage Journal
    How long until we can get Cowboy Neal reclassified as a pluton?
    • In other news, Ceres is being renamed Mickey, Charon is being renamed Daffy, and Disney/Pixar has a new movie coming out with the clever name of "2003 UB313".

      Corporate sponsorship is running rampant... how did they get naming rights to the 9th planet in the first place?

  • What the pluton is going on here? Since when are moons and asteroids without names included in the list of planets?
    • by Kryis ( 947024 )
      A rose by any other name would smell as sweet
    • That's no moon (Score:5, Informative)

      by Namarrgon ( 105036 ) on Wednesday August 16, 2006 @08:48AM (#15918165) Homepage

      It's a b... I mean, it's actually part of a double-planet system, orbiting around a common point in space (unlike all other moons in our solar system). And Ceres is an asteroid with a name, thank you very much.

      In answer to your second question, since August 24, if the vote passes.

      • Re:That's no moon (Score:3, Informative)

        by john83 ( 923470 )
        All two body systems orbit a common point. If you cleared all the other gunk out of the solar system, the earth and the sun would orbit a common point. It would just happen to be very, very deep in the sun because of the disparity of mass. I don't see your argument there, unless you're saying that the common point is outside Pluto and that this isn't true of other systems.
      • Re:That's no moon (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Crayon Kid ( 700279 )
        I thought Earth+Moon was also considered a "binary planet" thing, due to the rather extraordinary size of the Moon (for a satellite).
        • Re:That's no moon (Score:5, Informative)

          by SpryGuy ( 206254 ) on Wednesday August 16, 2006 @12:53PM (#15920631)
          Actually, it's more due to the fact that in its orbit around the earth and around the sun, the moon is NEVER falling AWAY from the Sun. It always falls towards it.

          It seems to me that might be a useful definition to consider... and it would make more sense for the Moon to also be classified as a planet, than for Charon (for example) to be classified as a planet while the moon (many times larger) isn't.

          Frankly, though, I think the whole thing is a mess. Pluto, Charon, Quoar, Xena, and all the rest, are Kuiper Belt Objects, just like Ceres is an asteroid. In particular, Pluto, Charon, Quoar, Xena, and the others KBOs are all in highly elliptical orbits, outside the plane of the ecliptic. Why can't the definition of a planet include the plane of the ecliptic? We'd have 8 planets, and then a mess of KBOs.

        • Re:That's no moon (Score:3, Informative)

          by dastrike ( 458983 )

          While there is no absolutely firm definition of what constitutes a double planet (binary planet), one of the fairly widely accepted criteria is that the barycentre (the common point around which both of the objects orbit around) lies above the surface of both of the objects. This is not the case in the Earth-Moon system, where the barycentre lies roughly 1,700 km beneath the surface of Earth. In the case of Pluto-Charon, the barycentre is clearly above the surface of Pluto, so both Pluto and Charon orbit ar

    • Re:What the pluton? (Score:5, Informative)

      by KiloByte ( 825081 ) on Wednesday August 16, 2006 @08:54AM (#15918203)
      The whole difference between a "planet" and a "moon" is a fallacy. It assumes things can orbit only a physical object, and not an immaterial object like a center of mass. The "official" definition fails not only in the obvious Pluton-Charon case, but even for Sun-Jupiter (putting the smaller bodies aside for now). We orbit not the Sun, but the center of mass of the Solar system, which is actually outside the Sun itself.

      Thus, with the difference between "planets" and "moons" away, the classification that matters is:
      * pieces of rock (Mercury, Venus, Earth, Moon, Mars, Phobos, Deimos, Europa, ...)
      * sub-stellar balls of gas (Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune, Uranus)
      * pieces of dirty ice

      And to make it even harder, there is absolutely no reasonable boundary between "almost big enough to fuse" and "one particle". The difference between a "pebble" and a "boulder" isn't tangible.
      • I never knew that the barycenter between Jupiter and the Sun was outside of the Sun. I didn't think that Jupiter was big enough. You learn something new every day!
      • the center of mass of the Solar system, which is actually outside the Sun itself.

        Really, now? The sun contains more than 99,8% of the mass in our solar system

        Anyway, planets are things that usually orbit stars, and are large enough to be round, but small enough that they don't shine by themselves, at least not too much. A "moon" can also be a planet if it's large enough (otherwise it's a piece of rock), it just happens to orbit another planet. The "moon" tag distinguishes it from those bodies that fling

      • by noahisaac ( 956470 ) on Wednesday August 16, 2006 @09:25AM (#15918489) Homepage
        The difference between a "pebble" and a "boulder" isn't tangible.

        Having had both land on me at one point or another in my life, I beg to differ.
      • by Anonymous Coward
        * sub-stellar balls of gas (Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune, Uranus)

        I thought sub-stellar balls of gas came from Uranus.
      • How would you classify Ganymede, Callisto, and Europa? They're not completely rock and not completely ice. And for that matter, if there's no difference between a pebble and a boulder, then there's really no difference between a sub-stellar ball of gas and a stellar ball of gas (the composition is the same) or between an O class star and an M class star. Scale DOES matter to an astronomer. Granted, there is a continuum of scale and the boundaries are somewhat arbitrary, which is why the community is hav
      • Definitions (Score:4, Informative)

        by j_w_d ( 114171 ) on Wednesday August 16, 2006 @05:28PM (#15922815)
        The difference between a "pebble" and a "boulder" isn't tangible.

        "Pebble" has a formal scientific definition of small alluvial material from 4 to 64 mm diameter. "Boulders" are more than 256 mm diameter. Assuming the piece is a standard stony material such granite, drop a pebble of granite on your left toe and a boulder of granite on your right. I believe you will quite clearly note tangible, tactile differences. You might also try carrying a boulder in your back pocket and a pebble in a front pocket in your pants, or the other way around, if your are insecure with your girlfriend. Whenever you try sitting I again suspect you will note "tangible" differences.

    • I always thought that in order to be defined as a planet, it must revolve around the sun. A moon by definition revolves around a planet. Size shouldn't matter at that point. Maybe the probe that NASA sent to Pluto a couple months back might shed some light.
      • All of the moons in the solar system do revolve around the Sun. The Earth and the Moon also revolve around a common point, which is inside the Earth.
        • Re:What the pluton? (Score:5, Informative)

          by jc42 ( 318812 ) on Wednesday August 16, 2006 @09:34AM (#15918586) Homepage Journal
          The Earth and the Moon also revolve around a common point, which is inside the Earth.

          A perspective I've read on this is that our moon's orbit is everywhere concave with respect to the sun. So it's more accurate to interpret the Earth-Luna pair as not really orbiting each other, but rather sharing a solar orbit. Two bodies that are close together in the same orbit do swap places periodically; there are several known cases of this in the Jupiter and Saturn systems. From a rotating frame of reference, they appear to be orbiting each other. But viewed in a static frame, they appear to be swapping the lead periodically. So the Earth-Luna pair could be more accurately considered a binary planet pair in a common orbit.

          It's all rather nitpicky anyway. As numerous astronomers have pointed out here, they mostly don't use such vague terms as "planet". And an orbit isn't really a property of the bodies in an orbit; it's a property of the system.

          The "debate" is basically a media event, based on people who take their grade-school science classes too seriously, and think that for some reason that the Solar System must contain exactly nine "planets".

          • Hopefully the non-planetologists (or whatever they're called) in the IAU who are sick of the topic will just vote in favor of the proposal and put an end to this. Those who study planetary science and want to nitpick for the rest of their lives are probably outnumbered. What I'd like to see is an actual name for Xena (it's just a nickname currently, it's still technically named 2003 UB313). It should not be called Xena.
          • by Andy Somnifac ( 971725 ) on Wednesday August 16, 2006 @10:19AM (#15919029)

            The "debate" is basically a media event, based on people who take their grade-school science classes too seriously, and think that for some reason that the Solar System must contain exactly nine "planets".

            I think that one of the problems in this country (the US) is that we do not take grade school science seriously enough. We need those science classes to engage the kids and hopefully inspire some of them to a career in some scientific field.

      • Re:What the pluton? (Score:2, Informative)

        by Zelbinian ( 992687 )
        Well, in that case we'd have about 500+ planets, because you'd have to count all the asteriods in along with it. And it doesn't really make sense to do that. Not to mention the hell 4th grade science would become having to memorize all those names . . .
    • What the pluton is going on here? Since when are moons and asteroids without names included in the list of planets?

      Back in the olden days we used to call these 'planetoids' [wikipedia.org] which I feel is as good a term as 'dwarf planet' even if it is less formal. Both of them are, however, preferable to 'pluton' which sounds like it is some sort of a subatomic particle. I suppose 'planetoid' smelled to much of computer games, marvel comics and sci-fi novels to pass muster.

    • Since when are moons and asteroids without names included in the list of planets?
      Oh, but they'll get names. And what names. I believe UB313 is currently nicknamed "Xena" and its satellite is "Buffy". Quite a leap from the other planets, whose names originate in Greek/Roman mythology. See the Gods next to Buffy, the Vampire Slayer. Seriously now, it would be quite a change.
  • Interesting solution (Score:4, Interesting)

    by andrewman327 ( 635952 ) on Wednesday August 16, 2006 @08:26AM (#15918053) Homepage Journal
    This is an interesting approach, though I am not sure why they even bother with the definition of planet anymore. Just consider Plutons as their own thing. I wonder if elementary students will now have to recite all 12 planets.


    Here are the three additions:
    *The asteroid Ceres, which is round, would be recast as a dwarf planet in the new scheme.
    *Pluto would remain a planet and its moon Charon would be reclassified as a planet. Both would be called "plutons," however, to distinguish them from the eight "classical" planets.
    *A far-out Pluto-sized object known as 2003 UB313 would also be called a pluton.

  • by Cyberax ( 705495 ) on Wednesday August 16, 2006 @08:27AM (#15918058)
    Pluton politely asks media corporation not to use His name as a generic noun.
  • Sheesh (Score:5, Interesting)

    by wanerious ( 712877 ) on Wednesday August 16, 2006 @08:31AM (#15918075) Homepage
    The way I teach it in my classes is that there are 4 inner planets, 4 outer planets, and a (large) set of Kuiper Belt objects, of which Pluto is one of the largest and closest members. Why do we need a planetary definition? Historically, any serious attempt to classify natural objects eventually runs into problems anyway, especially when our first attempt includes objects that obviously belong to a number of sub-classes, each of which contains a continuum of members.
    • Re:Sheesh (Score:5, Insightful)

      by plasmana ( 984377 ) on Wednesday August 16, 2006 @08:53AM (#15918198)
      We need a planetary definition so we can communicate efficiently. Why else do we need words. Try talking about your environment without classifications of natural objects:

      I bought my direct ancestral animated entities an animated entity with four appendages used for walking, one appendage for knocking down lamps, a soft covering that is white with black spots, which speaks in guttural exclamations which are just nonsensical to animated entities like myself.

      Instead of:

      I bought my kids a dog

      As our observations of our environment reveals new information. We must periodically change our definitions to attempt to make our abstractions best reflect reality.
  • Yikes. (Score:5, Funny)

    by Rob T Firefly ( 844560 ) on Wednesday August 16, 2006 @08:36AM (#15918104) Homepage Journal
    Somewhere, Space Fonzie is jumping over an Astro-Shark.
  • by 9x320 ( 987156 ) on Wednesday August 16, 2006 @08:39AM (#15918121)
    Planet: A celestial object orbiting a star that is massive enough for its own gravity to warp itself into a nearly round, spherical shape. A planet may not be massive enough to initiate thermonuclear fusion. In order for a pair of celestial objects to be considered a double planet, in addition to meeting the forementioned criteria, the barycenter of both objects must be located above their surfaces. Planetary systems orbit a barycenter, or their center of mass. Usually that center of mass is located at the center of the planet, but in the case of Pluto, the gravity of its "moons" pull the barycenter above the surface. As a result, Pluto is perpetually orbiting the center of mass of the planetary system, as illustrated in a chart located in the Wikipedia article. This is why Charon and Pluto are being considered double planets. I think that's the best set of criteria that can be offered. Why is the idea of over 50 planets so abhorent? Why must size and the number of planets be decided arbitrarily? We might as well use Isaac Asimov's mesoplanet suggestion, in which all objects with radii between Ceres and Mercury are mesoplanets, if this is how it is to be decided.
    • Why is the idea of over 50 planets so abhorent?

      Because then we have to think of a 50 word mnemonic, and teach it to children!!
      • by 9x320 ( 987156 )
        There are already 88 constellations with arbitrary, zigzagging boundaries between them used by the International Astronomical Union for classifying stars. Considering that two methods of naming stars uses the genitive Latin form of that constellation's name, the Latin genitive form must be memorized as well.

        The best method of memorization for me was to construct a table with the constellation name in one column and the Latin genitive form in the other. Considering this, if there were 53 planets, for the pur
    • by anshil ( 302405 ) on Wednesday August 16, 2006 @09:12AM (#15918318) Homepage
      "Why is the idea of over 50 planets so abhorent?"

      Think of the complexity of the new astrology that would be needed to cater for 50 planets that then influence our fortunes, I would like my destiny be determined by just 9 planets...
      • Think of the complexity of the new astrology that would be needed to cater for 50 planets that then influence our fortunes, I would like my destiny be determined by just 9 planets...

        I think it would explain a whole lot about my life though, if it turns out it's controlled by 50 planets instead of 9...

    • Why is the idea of over 50 planets so abhorent?

      The short answer is that popular science (of the general public variety) is conservative and very slow to accept change. Something as radical as "Throw out everything you learned about 'the planets' in grade school, you ignorant hayseed!" is going to be met with popular resistance (not to mention resistance from grade school teachers who are all-too-often loathe to learn ANYTHING new). Anything that adds MORE complexity to science for people who can barely g

    • Why is the idea of over 50 planets so abhorent?

      I have nothing against that, but IMVHO they are choosing the wrong criteria: mass (see: a list of Solar system objects by mass [wikipedia.org]) is usually more difficult to determine than size (see: a list of Solar system objects by radius [wikipedia.org]), and the definition of the minimum mass:

      sufficient mass for its self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces so that it assumes a hydrostatic equilibrium (nearly round) shape

      seems too fuzzy to me. Why not simply choose anything with a r

    • Planet: A celestial object orbiting a star that is massive enough for its own gravity to warp itself into a nearly round, spherical shape...

      The question is, why use the word "planet" for this class of bodies, when the definition is completely unrelated to the classical term?

      Historically, a "planet" was a body that had three unrelated properties:

      1) It orbits the Sun
      2) It is far enough from the Earth to not show a disc and not have any visible moons
      3) It is large enough to be visible from the Earth without to
  • by Stavr0 ( 35032 ) on Wednesday August 16, 2006 @08:40AM (#15918124) Homepage Journal
    That's already how Pluto is spelled in French. I guess we could refer to small-p plutons for Pluto, Charon and Kuyper objects. And of course 'Pluton', being the eponymous pluton.
  • "Remember the one where I petition the Almighty for three more planets? That one."

    -- Meat Puppets (Classic Puppets - 23. Meltdown)
  • by lbmouse ( 473316 ) on Wednesday August 16, 2006 @08:42AM (#15918132) Homepage
    ....what do they smell like?

    Fry: Did you build the Smellescope?
    Farnsworth: No, I remembered that I'd built one last year. Go ahead, try it. You'll find that every heavenly body has its own particular scent. Here, I'll point it at Jupiter.
    [Fry sniffs.]
    Fry: Smells like strawberries.
    Farnsworth: Exactly! And now Saturn.
    [Fry sniffs.]
    Fry: Pine needles. Oh, man, this is great! Hey, as long as you don't make me smell Uranus.
    [Fry laughs.]
    Leela: I don't get it.
    Farnsworth: I'm sorry, Fry, but astronomers renamed Uranus in 2620 to end that stupid joke once and for all.
    Fry: Oh. What's it called now?
    Farnsworth: Urectum. Here, let me locate it for you.
    • Nothing will ever top the adaptability of "Uranus," because it can not only work in "Your anus" jokes, but also in "You're an ass" jokes. It's the perfect planet name for middle-school kids!

      -Eric

    • When they discovered that Uranus had rings, like Saturn, I was so excited that I ran out the front door and announced it VERY loudly to my little brother, at the far end of the driveway, by saying something along these lines: "Hey, they discovered that Uranus has rings!"

      It was a classic example of realizing, only too late, that something might have been phrased much differently, or, perhaps, privately...
    • by Andy_R ( 114137 ) on Wednesday August 16, 2006 @10:40AM (#15919282) Homepage Journal
      This joke appeared on he UK tv show "Spitting Image" in the late 1980s, around the time the astronomical community was actually trying to get us to pronounce it 'ooranus' as opposed you 'your-anus'.

      A newscaster (Sir Alistair Campbell if memory serves me correctly) was shown announcing the name change to "boo-mo-lay', followed after a second or so by a picture of the planet, captioned "Bumhole".

      I laughed a lot... but in my defence I was about 13 years old at the time.
  • The definition is useful. Yes, it may result in an absurd number of "planets" in the solar system, but that's not the scientists' problem.

    That's not to say the definition might not have problems. Using this definition, would ice worlds be more likely to achieve "planet" designation than rock worlds because their components soften and deform at a higher temperature?

  • by Daetrin ( 576516 ) on Wednesday August 16, 2006 @08:47AM (#15918157)
    From the article: "A planet is a celestial body that (a) has sufficient mass for its self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces so that it assumes a hydrostatic equilibrium (nearly round) shape, and (b) is in orbit around a star, and is neither a star nor a satellite of a planet."

    I guess the center of rotation of the Pluto-Charon system is actually above the surface of Pluto, making it a double-planet system? So far so good.

    The bit about plutons and dwarf planets is a _lot_ less clear however.

    "The IAU proposal suggests (but does not require) that these be called dwarf planets. Pluto could also be considered a dwarf, which the IAU recommends as an informal label.

    So to recap: Pluto would be a planet and a pluton and also a dwarf."

    So we've gone from the term planet being an indistinct label that we apply to whatever we happen to think deserves it to it being an exact definiton, but added _two_ new indistinct labels that we apply to whatever we happen to think deserves it. To me this doesn't seem like a great deal of improvement.

    At least i'm not the only one who thinks this is a bit foobared:

    "Boss was bothered by the lack of definitiveness on this and other points.

    Boss, along with Stern, was on an IAU committee of astronomers that failed to agree on a definition. After a year, the IAU disbanded that committee and formed the new one, which included the author Dava Sobel in an effort to bring new ideas to the process.

    Boss called their proposal "creative" and "detailed" but said it does not hang together as a cohesive argument."

    I think whatever definition they finally settle on should be a usefull one once we actually start traveling between solar systems (wishfull thinking.) If we were just coming across the Sol system for the first time we would probably be concerned about the 8 major planets as places for potential habitation, convenient gravity wells and sources of resources. We might care about Pluto and Charon, but i doubt it would be for any practical purpose. We almost certainly wouldn't care about the 20-50 other planets this new definition would add other than as a curiosity.

    I'm not sure if there's an easy way to clearly differentiate between the two, but there really ought to be at least two clearly distinct categories, "major planets" and "minor planets" or "planets" and "planetoids" or "dwarf planets."

  • Planetary Categories (Score:4, Informative)

    by Rob Carr ( 780861 ) on Wednesday August 16, 2006 @08:49AM (#15918170) Homepage Journal
    New Scientist has the complete set of proposed categories [newscientistspace.com] for planets:
    • Planet: A round thing orbiting a star. More precisely, according to the draft definition: "A planet is a celestial body that (a) has sufficient mass for its self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces so that it assumes a hydrostatic equilibrium (nearly round) shape, and (b) is in orbit around a star, and is neither a star nor a satellite of a planet."
    • Pluton: A planet orbiting beyond Neptune, taking more than 200 Earth years to circle the Sun. So far, it would include Pluto; Pluto's former moon, Charon; and "Xena" (2003 UB313).
    • Satellite: Anything orbiting a planet, as long as the mutual centre of gravity does not fall outside the planet. Includes several bodies much larger than many planets, such as Jupiter's moon Ganymede (diameter: 5262 kilometres).
    • Small solar system body: Anything orbiting the Sun that's not a planet or a satellite. Most asteroids and comets would be SSSBs. Currently called minor planets.
    Unofficial categories of planet:
    • Dwarf planet: A planet smaller than Mercury (diameter: 4879 kilometres), which is the smallest uncontested planet. Would include the former asteroid Ceres; Pluto; Charon; and Xena.
    • Giant planet: Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune.
    • Classical planet: The four giant planets plus the familiar four rocky, terrestrial planets: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars.
  • by 4D6963 ( 933028 ) on Wednesday August 16, 2006 @08:50AM (#15918175)

    Let's see the good side of things, maybe Ceres with its new status will gain some more interest, *maybe* even enough for it to have the honour to be probed by us. Would surprise me a bit tho.

    Edit : seems that there's already a probe destinated to Ceres (among others) nammed Dawn [space.com]

    Edit #2 : yeah I know, you can't actually edit your posts

  • Planets are a fairly arbitrary categorization by us anyway - why not just use some nice round number - like 1 Meter per second per second of Gravity as an arbitrary cutoff between planets and minor planets?
    • At what altitude?

      Yeah alright, at the surface, sure, but I think you're missing the point.

      The classification of these bodies NEEDS to make some kind of abstract sense to people, since it gives us a "handle" with which to manipulate these thoughts in our minds. It may seem arbitrary, but you'll notice that all the definitions given - out of necessity - are given in terms of things to which we can relate. Spherical (ish), smaller than Mercury, centre of mass outside of the body etc. These are all things we ca
      • Yes - a definition of big enough to be spherical, and center of gravity outside of another object is all well and good... except for the fact that it could potentially lead to dozens, if not hundreds of "planets" in the solar system.

        Better to find a way to restrict the definition to only the very largest bodies in a system - even if the cutoff point is plucked out of thin air. Otherwise the term will be completely divorced from its historical and popular meaning.

  • Plus there's already something called a pluton made of rock - it's a 'floater' in that solidifies before the rest of the molten rock.
  • by call -151 ( 230520 ) * on Wednesday August 16, 2006 @08:59AM (#15918241) Homepage
    Mike Brown, leader of teams that have discovered 2003UB313 and 11 other objects that meet the proposed definition of planet, has the following on his webpage [caltech.edu] now:


    The IAU proposal officially recognizes only 12 planets; where does the number 53 come from?

    By the proposed IAU definition, anything large enough to be pulled by its own gravity into the shape of a sphere and which is in orbit around a star is a planet. The proposal officially recognizes 12 planets (the nine previously recognized plus Ceres and Pluto's moon Charon plus 2003 UB313) creates a complex committee procedure for an object to become officially recognized. This part of the proposal is perhaps the weakest. In no other area of astronomy is there a definition for a class of objects and then a committee that has to decide if an object fits the definition. There are simply definitions. If an object fits the definition it is part of the class. If the IAU proposal is accepted then scientifically all of the spherical objects out there are indeed classified as planets, regardless of how long it takes for a committee to officiailly declare them to be so.


    A relatively simple analysis show that there are currently 53 known objects in the solar system which are likely round. Another few hundred will likely be discovered in the relatively near future. Regardless of what the official count is from the IAU proposal these object all fit the scientific definition of the word planet and if the scientific definition is to have any credibility they should all generally be considered planets.


    What should the public think about 53 planets?

    Most people, when first confronted with a proposal to make 44 new planets in the solar system, seem to react by looking blankly for a second, then shaking their heads and muttering something about astronomers being crazy. Astronomers are not actually crazy, at least most of them. Astronomers have needed a good scientific definition of the word "planet" for many years now and this one works well for scientists. It doesn't, however, work terribly well for the rest of the world. The solution is the one that should have happened long ago: a divorce of the scientific term "planet" for the cultural term "planet." No one expects school children to name the 53 planets (most, in fact, don't even have names). If I were a school teacher I would teach 8, or 9, or perhaps 10 planets and then say "scientists consider many more things to be planets too" and use that opportunity to talk about how much more there is in the solar system. But at the end of the day I would talk about 8 or 9 or 10. Not 53.

    Culture and science have always meant something different when they use the word planet, and with this new scientific definition so clearly far removed from what the rest of the world things a planet is there will no longer be any need to confuse the scientific word with the cultural one.


    How am I going to vote on the IAU resolution?

    This one is easy to answer. I am not an IAU member, I took no part in drafting the resolution, and I get no vote. If I were to vote, however, I would have to decide that while the definition itself is viable the extra non-scientific beauracratic barrage attached to the resolution would doom it for me.

  • This, unfortunately, is what happens when you try to wrap a scientific definition around a cultural concept. It seems pretty clear that the simplest and most logical option (demote Pluto) was deemed unpalatable to the general public. Which, really, is what this is all about; solar system research will go on the same regardless of what the things are being called. Since the textbooks will be rewritten anyway, why go for such an unwieldy change? No one now cares that Ceres, Pallas, Juno, and Vesta were all in
  • ...I can't help but think the textbook publishers must be drooling buckets right now (plus, I wonder if anyone on the committee(s) making this decision have an "interest" in such publishing?)
     
    And don't bother taking that "Oh, these are scientists, they're above such things as pride and avarice!" air, human nature is human nature.
  • by BrynM ( 217883 ) * on Wednesday August 16, 2006 @09:08AM (#15918302) Homepage Journal
    The sun shines
    And Pluto orbits
    The spray flies as the comet glides
    And planets orbit, orbits they're hiding
    The IAU smile
    And Pluto orbits
    The system packs as the commity tracks
    And planets orbit, orbits they're hiding

    Behind an Astronomers front
    Astronomers front - it's a pluton


    (to the tune of Eminence Front by The Who - don't ask me why this song jumped into my head while reading the article)
  • "When Joseph said unto his father: O my father! Lo! I saw in a dream eleven planets and the sun and the moon, I saw them prostrating themselves unto me." (12:3)
  • by cvd6262 ( 180823 ) on Wednesday August 16, 2006 @09:28AM (#15918520)
    This was covered on the local version of KBBL [wikipedia.org], and the commentary was spot on:

    "These guys are in serious need of a girlfriend."
  • by tillerman35 ( 763054 ) on Wednesday August 16, 2006 @09:49AM (#15918713)
    Orbjects: noun. contraction of ORBiting oBJECTS (with the repeated B collapsed to a single character). Any object in a solar system that orbits. Focus of such orbit must be another object or center of gravity derived from two or more objects.

    Further classification:
    Little Orbjects: Wee orbjects that require only a passing flock of waterfowl to achieve escape velocity. Can only contain volcanos, sheep, roses, and possibly a child, tippler, king, or accountant.
    Big Orbjects: Orbjects that would require an actual propulsion system including significant amount of reaction mass to achieve escape velocity.
    Huge Orbjects: Orbjects whose mass is so great that a human being could not survive its gravitational pull. Or better stated, orbjects that you might have sex with, but wouldn't introduce to your friends.
  • ...what will mother very tenderly make a jelly sandwich under none of?

    Calling Ceres a planet Bode's well.

  • by phlegmofdiscontent ( 459470 ) on Wednesday August 16, 2006 @10:11AM (#15918922)
    The term "dwarf planet" is actually starting to grow on me. It still keeps Pluto as a planet, for those who absolutely need it to be a planet, but really it IS a demotion to a status equal to the larger asteroids & KBOs. The way I see it, the Solar System has 8 Major Planets (4 terrestrial, 4 gas giants), at least 50 Dwarf Planets (Pluto, Ceres, 2003 UB313, etc) that are round due to self-gravitation, and the non-round objects can still be called Minor Planets. It just adds an intermediate classification between "planet" and "asteroid/minor planet".

To thine own self be true. (If not that, at least make some money.)

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