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Pluto no longer a planet, say astronomers

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Pluto no longer a planet, say astronomers

Postby Ian on Thu Aug 24, 2006 11:56 am

Time to rewrite all the science books...

http://www.cnn.com/2006/TECH/space/08/2 ... index.html

PRAGUE, Czech Republic (AP) -- Leading astronomers declared Thursday that Pluto is no longer a planet under historic new guidelines that downsize the solar system from nine planets to eight.

After a tumultuous week of clashing over the essence of the cosmos, the International Astronomical Union stripped Pluto of the planetary status it has held since its discovery in 1930. The new definition of what is -- and isn't -- a planet fills a centuries-old black hole for scientists who have labored since Copernicus without one.

Although astronomers applauded after the vote, Jocelyn Bell Burnell -- a specialist in neutron stars from Northern Ireland who oversaw the proceedings -- urged those who might be "quite disappointed" to look on the bright side.

"It could be argued that we are creating an umbrella called 'planet' under which the dwarf planets exist," she said, drawing laughter by waving a stuffed Pluto of Walt Disney fame beneath a real umbrella.

The decision by the prestigious international group spells out the basic tests that celestial objects will have to meet before they can be considered for admission to the elite cosmic club.

For now, membership will be restricted to the eight "classical" planets in the solar system: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune.

Much-maligned Pluto doesn't make the grade under the new rules for a planet: "a celestial body that is in orbit around the sun, has sufficient mass for its self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces so that it assumes a ... nearly round shape, and has cleared the neighborhood around its orbit."

Pluto is automatically disqualified because its oblong orbit overlaps with Neptune's.

Instead, it will be reclassified in a new category of "dwarf planets," similar to what long have been termed "minor planets." The definition also lays out a third class of lesser objects that orbit the sun -- "small solar system bodies," a term that will apply to numerous asteroids, comets and other natural satellites.
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Postby MediumRare on Thu Aug 24, 2006 2:48 pm

The alternative proposal was to call some bits of cosmic junk planets as well:
Ceres (an asteroid)
Charon- Pluto's moon :o
and "Xena" another body in the Kuiper belt.
All of these are smaller than our moon (as is Pluto, BTW).

I think they made the right choice.

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Postby CowboySlim on Thu Aug 24, 2006 3:10 pm


Glad that they got this done before the Karr/Ramsey trial starts.
Otherwise the media would have buried it and we would still be thinking that Pluto was still a bona fide planet all throught the trial.
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Postby stix on Sat Aug 26, 2006 2:05 am

I think they should have given Uranus the boot.
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Postby bill on Sat Aug 26, 2006 7:42 am

stix wrote:I think they should have given Uranus the boot.

That's a good one :lol:
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