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Pluto Could Lose Planet Status
PhysOrg.com ^ | 21 June 2006 | Staff

Posted on 06/22/2006 4:11:12 AM PDT by PatrickHenry

At its conference this August, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) will make a decision that could see Pluto lose its status as a planet.

For the first time, the organisation will be officially defining the word "planet", and it is causing much debate in the world of astronomy.

There is only one thing that everyone seems to agree on: there are no longer nine planets in the Solar System.

The debate has been brought to a head by the discovery of a potential 10th planet, temporarily named 2003 UB313 in January 2005. This new candidate planet is bigger than Pluto.

The question now facing the IAU is whether to make this new discovery a planet.

Pluto is an unusual planet as it is made predominantly of ice and is smaller even than the Earth's Moon.

There is a group of astronomers that are arguing for an eight-planet SolarSystem, with neither Pluto or 2003 UB313 making the grade as a planet; but a number of astronomers are arguing for a more specific definition of a planet.

One of these; Kuiper Belt researcher Dr Marc Buie, of the Lowell Observatory in Arizona, has come up with a clear planetary definition he would like to see the IAU adopt.

I believe the definition of planet should be as simple as possible, so I've come up with two criteria," he said.

"One is that it can't be big enough to burn its own matter - that's what a star does. On the small end, I think the boundary between a planet and not a planet should be, is the gravity of the object stronger than the strength of the material of the object? That's a fancy way of saying is it round?"

This definition could lead to our Solar System having as many as 20 planets, including Pluto, 2003 UB313, and many objects that were previously classified as moons or asteroids.

One possible resolution to the debate is for new categories of planet to be introduced. Mercury, Venus, the Earth and Mars would be "rocky planets". The gas-giants Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune would be a second category.

Whatever the outcome of this debate there is only one thing that we can be certain of; by September 2006 there will no longer be just nine planets in our Solar System.


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Philosophy
KEYWORDS: artbell; kbo; planetx; xplanets
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To: Jedi Master Pikachu

I don't think they did.

But they're revising the whole thing in a 2006 episode anyway.


101 posted on 06/22/2006 9:01:08 AM PDT by <1/1,000,000th%
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To: beezdotcom
I still say that there's something to the fact that the combined radii of the two members of the Earth-Moon pairing is exactly 7! (7 factorial) miles, which oddly enough is the same as 10!/6!

Numerology and astrology can't BOTH be wrong, can they?

102 posted on 06/22/2006 9:01:37 AM PDT by Tanniker Smith (I didn't know she was a liberal when I married her.)
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To: RonF
Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.!

103 posted on 06/22/2006 9:11:44 AM PDT by Surtur (Free Trade is NOT Fair Trade unless both economies are equivalent.)
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To: King Prout
does the body in question have sufficient gravity to maintain the stable orbit(s) of natural satellite(s) of its own?

That depends on how far from the sun it is, which isn't really a good criterion.

104 posted on 06/22/2006 9:22:36 AM PDT by steve-b (Hoover Dam is every bit as "natural" as a beaver dam.)
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To: Tanniker Smith
(And this is coming from a guy who had a problem with rationalizing the term "satellite nations" when I first learned about the Soviet Union in 6th grade.)

After Sputnik was launched, there was a joke about Czechoslovakia launching its own satellite... which would circle around Sputnik.

105 posted on 06/22/2006 9:24:18 AM PDT by steve-b (Hoover Dam is every bit as "natural" as a beaver dam.)
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To: King Prout

But, how would you rate Helen Thomas?


106 posted on 06/22/2006 9:34:03 AM PDT by Skywarner (The U.S. Armed Forces... Producers of FREEDOM for over 200 years!!)
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To: PatrickHenry
Thanks, PH. :D
What's Pluto (the dog) gotta do?
107 posted on 06/22/2006 9:45:09 AM PDT by skinkinthegrass (Just because you're paranoid, doesn't mean they aren't out to get you....... :^)
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To: wattojawa
Well Pluto's tilted eccentric orbit is more like a comet's orbit than a planet's orbit and most likely it was originally one of Neptune's moons that somehow got free of Neptune's gravity.

Hmmm...an excellent example of the ongoing ancient game of space pool.... :D

108 posted on 06/22/2006 9:54:01 AM PDT by skinkinthegrass (Just because you're paranoid, doesn't mean they aren't out to get you....... :^)
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To: PatrickHenry

I'll bet the citizens of Pluto are plenty angry. I sure would be if Earth lost its' status!

I fear though that this may be the democrats new voter base, disillusioned Plutonians who consider planetary status their right and entitlement.

Shove Pelosi onto a rocketship and let her do some advanced study on this.


109 posted on 06/22/2006 9:57:18 AM PDT by Dazedcat ((Please God, make it stop))
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To: skinkinthegrass
Pluto in the corner black hole.

Dang, that must be one hell of a cue stick.

110 posted on 06/22/2006 10:06:10 AM PDT by Tanniker Smith (I didn't know she was a liberal when I married her.)
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To: tlb

Yeah! What's with this UB313 crap? I thought the planet was gonna be named after me!


111 posted on 06/22/2006 10:09:38 AM PDT by Xenalyte (The wages of sin are death, but after taxes are taken out it's just sort of a tired feeling.)
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To: Skywarner
But, how would you rate Helen Thomas?

NOW YOU"VE DONE IT!
....someone's gonna post her picture (but I won't :) now.

112 posted on 06/22/2006 10:12:44 AM PDT by skinkinthegrass (Just because you're paranoid, doesn't mean they aren't out to get you....... :^)
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To: RonF

You just HAD to bring Hasselhoff into it, didn't you? ;)


113 posted on 06/22/2006 10:14:47 AM PDT by Xenalyte (The wages of sin are death, but after taxes are taken out it's just sort of a tired feeling.)
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To: Tanniker Smith
Dang, that must be one hell of a cue stick.

Yes....It Is (its' at least 19.18 au long :), of course, the size of the pool table (the Ort Cloud :) is important , too.

114 posted on 06/22/2006 10:24:38 AM PDT by skinkinthegrass (Just because you're paranoid, doesn't mean they aren't out to get you....... :^)
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To: Surtur

My Fury knows no bounds.


115 posted on 06/22/2006 10:52:39 AM PDT by Waverunner
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To: Sergio
Thanks for the comments, Sergio.  His Out of the Darkness: The Planet Pluto earned my great respect for him, when I was a young teen.
116 posted on 06/22/2006 11:14:32 AM PDT by clyde asbury (Presto agitato)
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To: PatrickHenry

What the bleep does this have to do with EVOLUTION.


117 posted on 06/22/2006 11:17:36 AM PDT by drlevy88
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To: PatrickHenry
The Seventh Planet is tickled by this news....
118 posted on 06/22/2006 11:23:10 AM PDT by longshadow (FReeper #405, entering his ninth year of ignoring nitwits, nutcases, and recycled newbies)
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To: longshadow
The Seventh Planet is tickled by this news....

Someone tickled Ur_____?

119 posted on 06/22/2006 11:39:14 AM PDT by PatrickHenry (Unresponsive to trolls, lunatics, fanatics, retards, scolds, & incurable ignoramuses.)
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To: RonF
If the point about which two bodies orbit each other is not beneath the surface of one of them, but is between them, then I'd call that a binary system.

Sometimes the Sun-Jupiter system has its center-of-gravity outside the Sun's surface.

120 posted on 06/22/2006 12:14:30 PM PDT by Doctor Stochastic (Vegetabilisch = chaotisch ist der Charakter der Modernen. - Friedrich Schlegel)
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To: RonF
If the point about which two bodies orbit each other is not beneath the surface of one of them,...then I'd call that...

Well, as you said, it's what you would call it, and you're free to do whatever you want. It's a logical distinction, and there are worse.

However, I think a better one is to say that if the gravitational attraction of some other body (like a nearby planet) is greater than the gravitational attraction of the star, then it's a moon. Otherwise, it's a planet (assuming it's also big enough to be round).

By that definition, our Luna is still a planet, since if you work the math the gravitational attraction of the Sun on Luna is greater than the gravitational attraction of the Earth on Luna.
121 posted on 06/22/2006 1:29:42 PM PDT by Gorjus
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To: UnbelievingScumOnTheOtherSide
This geometric definition is not valid.

I guess we'll just disagree. While you can make the case that being or not being a 'wanderer' is independent of distance from the sun (so that 'loose' planets far from any star are still planets, and not rocks or whatever), the issue is whether Luna is a planet or a moon. If you took the earth away, then Luna would be a planet at any distance from the sun, so is your definition that distance from the sun doesn't make a body a planet, but distance from another body does?

My definition of the difference between moon and planet would be based on whether the gravitational attraction of the nearby 'planet' (in this case Earth) on the smaller body is greater or less than the gravitational attraction of the sun on that smaller body. In the case of Luna, the sun exerts a greater force than the Earth does.

Obviously, this sort of distinction - whether a particular body is considered a moon or a planet - depends exactly on whether there is another nearby planet which exerts a greater force on the body than the sun itself.

By that definition, though the moons of Jupiter and Saturn would continue to orbit the sun if the planet were removed, they are nonetheless moons because the force on them from their planet is greater than the force on them from the sun.

And this can be recognized by whether their motion is ever retrograde with respect to the sun or whether their motion is ever convex toward the sun.

You're welcome to your own definition any way you want to make it, but I think the gravitational force definition makes more sense. You are, of course, free to disagree.
122 posted on 06/22/2006 1:49:32 PM PDT by Gorjus
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To: DainBramage
They should kick Uranus out.

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."
123 posted on 06/22/2006 3:44:05 PM PDT by Thoro (Then an accidental overdose of gamma radiation alters his body chemistry....)
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To: PatrickHenry

In a Constitutional Republic Pluto would be entitled to 2 Senators and one Representative. That would qualify it for red state status.


124 posted on 06/22/2006 3:53:38 PM PDT by OrioleFan (Republicans believe every day is July 4th, DemocRATs believe every day is April 15th. - Reagan)
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To: SW6906
Sheesh! You're right, but there's a character limit on the tagline! ;o)

..."and tagline space".

125 posted on 06/22/2006 3:57:02 PM PDT by Ichneumon (Ignorance is curable, but the afflicted has to want to be cured.)
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To: drlevy88; PatrickHenry
What the bleep does this have to do with EVOLUTION.

Perhaps if you clicked the link in his ping post which was helpfully labeled "See the list's explanation", you could actually find the explanation which answers your question.

126 posted on 06/22/2006 4:00:30 PM PDT by Ichneumon (Ignorance is curable, but the afflicted has to want to be cured.)
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To: PatrickHenry

Why do all the other planet's moons get to have names, but Earth's moon does not?


127 posted on 06/22/2006 4:10:43 PM PDT by operation clinton cleanup
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To: operation clinton cleanup
Why do all the other planet's moons get to have names, but Earth's moon does not?

Tradition, going back to the time (before Galileo's discoveries) when our moon was assumed to be the only moon. Similarly, the sun has no name either, unlike all the other prominent stars.

For those who seem to need a name for the moon, it's often called Luna, which is "moon" in Latin. When your grandchildren are living on Mars, presumably they won't call Earth's moon "the moon." Until then, there's not much room for confusion.

128 posted on 06/22/2006 4:22:56 PM PDT by PatrickHenry (Unresponsive to trolls, lunatics, fanatics, retards, scolds, & incurable ignoramuses.)
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To: PatrickHenry

Change the defintion to exlude smaller bodies and grandfather in Pluto.


129 posted on 06/22/2006 4:31:48 PM PDT by Raycpa
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To: PatrickHenry
Similarly, the sun has no name either, unlike all the other prominent stars.

"Sol."

130 posted on 06/22/2006 4:37:35 PM PDT by longshadow (FReeper #405, entering his ninth year of ignoring nitwits, nutcases, and recycled newbies)
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To: Aquinasfan; PatrickHenry; longshadow
I like it when scientists argue in Aristotelian/Scholastic terms.

Me too, because it shows the lack of validity of such attempts, and thus the failure of Aristotelian/Scholastic philosophical views in the first place.

Nature doesn't recognize the category "planet", nor is there any "Aristotelian essence of planethood", it's simply a manmade category, a shorthand descriptive term which, as the argument in the article makes clear, runs into more and more problems as one attempts to delineate its (imaginary) limits.

While it's convenient to say that "the Solar System has nine planets" (or some other number), it's based on an arbitrary and, ultimately, unrealistic way of classifying things. The reality is closer to a description along the lines of, "the Solar system has vast numbers of objects moving around in it, of various sizes (ranging from the vast down to the microscopic), with differing compositions, rotational axes, shapes, and trajectories, acted upon by the gravity of the Sun and other bodies in varying amounts." Cataloging the specific properties of various objects is much more informative, useful, and reflective of reality than any attempt to break them into arbitrary categories like "planet", "moon", "asteroid", etc.

The attempt to describe reality in Aristotelian/Scholastic terms all too often leads to occurences of the continuum fallacy and the paradox of the heap, which are indications that Aristotelian terms are fallacious ways of conceptualizing.

131 posted on 06/22/2006 4:55:21 PM PDT by Ichneumon (Ignorance is curable, but the afflicted has to want to be cured.)
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To: longshadow
"Sol."

Yeah, same deal as Luna. Unless you're talking about your ne'er-do-well uncle.

132 posted on 06/22/2006 4:57:46 PM PDT by PatrickHenry (Unresponsive to trolls, lunatics, fanatics, retards, scolds, & incurable ignoramuses.)
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To: PatrickHenry
I could probably google it, but when did our planet start commonly being referred to as the Earth?
133 posted on 06/22/2006 5:09:32 PM PDT by operation clinton cleanup
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To: operation clinton cleanup
I could probably google it, but when did our planet start commonly being referred to as the Earth?

In lots of SF stories, where people are living on lots of planets, Earth is Terra, Latin like Luna and Sol. As for when "Earth" was first employed as the name of our planet, I'd be guessing. I suppose it also dates from after Galileo, when it was realized that what had been "the world" was just one of several planets. Interesting question. Maybe someone has a more authoritative answer than my speculations.

134 posted on 06/22/2006 5:15:44 PM PDT by PatrickHenry (Unresponsive to trolls, lunatics, fanatics, retards, scolds, & incurable ignoramuses.)
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To: operation clinton cleanup; PatrickHenry
I could probably google it, but when did our planet start commonly being referred to as the Earth?

It's also interesting to note that throughout history, the most common name that various groups of humans (i.e. various tribes, nations, etc.) would apply to themselves in their native language was, "the People".

135 posted on 06/22/2006 5:25:33 PM PDT by Ichneumon (Ignorance is curable, but the afflicted has to want to be cured.)
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To: PatrickHenry

It was probably coined by the same guy who invented the wheel.


136 posted on 06/22/2006 5:27:26 PM PDT by operation clinton cleanup
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To: Tanniker Smith

I misread your last sentence.

I thought you wrote that "the universe is named Dave."

Strange name for the universe.


137 posted on 06/22/2006 6:15:24 PM PDT by stands2reason (Rivers will run dry and mountains will crumble, but two wrongs will never make a right.)
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To: <1/1,000,000th%

You forgot Terra, which would be ? in Greek?


138 posted on 06/22/2006 6:17:13 PM PDT by stands2reason (Rivers will run dry and mountains will crumble, but two wrongs will never make a right.)
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To: Lou L

They realized that what they thought were brontosaurs were actually another dinasour that was named first.


139 posted on 06/22/2006 6:19:32 PM PDT by stands2reason (Rivers will run dry and mountains will crumble, but two wrongs will never make a right.)
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To: Sacajaweau

Little stars twinkle, Big Stars TWINKLE.


140 posted on 06/22/2006 6:20:25 PM PDT by Bernard (God helps those who helps themselves - The US Government takes in the rest.)
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To: clyde asbury

No offense meant, but your screenname is an anagram for "bays crudely."


141 posted on 06/22/2006 6:31:13 PM PDT by stands2reason (Rivers will run dry and mountains will crumble, but two wrongs will never make a right.)
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To: skinkinthegrass
Hmmm...an excellent example of the ongoing ancient game of space pool.... :D

Do you play space pool with spaceballs?

142 posted on 06/22/2006 6:49:37 PM PDT by lightman (The Office of the Keys should be exercised as some ministry needs to be exorcised.)
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To: Gorjus
And this can be recognized by whether their motion is ever retrograde with respect to the sun or whether their motion is ever convex toward the sun.

You're welcome to your own definition any way you want to make it, but I think the gravitational force definition makes more sense. You are, of course, free to disagree.

More or less gravity and whether or not the moon moves slower around a planet than the planet moves arond the sun (thus never being retrograde with respect to the sun) is not a good definition of being a moon. A moon is an object that would continue circling its primary in the absence of the sun. Thus, Saturn, which cirles around Jupiter, would not be a moon of Jupiter because it would go off on its own if the sun were gone. But a rock circling Jupiter slowly tens of millions of miles away would still be a moon of Jupiter if it would continue doing so in the absence of the sun. It is a satellite if it is gravitationally bound (not merely influenced or in resonance with a solar orbit) AT ALL to a primary other than the sun. What's more, scientists would call it a satellite of Jupiter just as they call the moon a satellite of earth except in the context of your silly contention.
143 posted on 06/23/2006 12:26:32 AM PDT by UnbelievingScumOnTheOtherSide (Give Them Liberty Or Give Them Death! - IT'S ISLAM, STUPID! - Islam Delenda Est! - Rumble thee forth)
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To: UnbelievingScumOnTheOtherSide
Mercury
Venus
Earth
Jose de CosasGratis
Mars
Jupiter
Saturn
Uranus
Neptune
Pluto
144 posted on 06/23/2006 12:29:07 AM PDT by freedumb2003 (The Left created, embraces and feeds "The Culture of Hate." Make it part of the political lexicon!)
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To: Gorjus
And this can be recognized by whether their motion is ever retrograde with respect to the sun or whether their motion is ever convex toward the sun.

You're welcome to your own definition any way you want to make it, but I think the gravitational force definition makes more sense. You are, of course, free to disagree.


More or less gravity and whether or not the moon moves slower around a planet than the planet moves around the sun (thus never being retrograde with respect to the sun) is not a good definition of being a moon. A moon is an object that would continue circling its primary in the absence of the sun. Thus, Saturn, which circles around Jupiter, would not be a moon of Jupiter because it would go off on its own if the sun were gone. But a rock circling Jupiter slowly tens of millions of miles away would still be a moon of Jupiter if it would continue doing so in the absence of the sun. It is a satellite if it is gravitationally bound (not merely influenced or in resonance with a solar orbit) AT ALL to a primary other than the sun. What's more, scientists would call it a satellite of Jupiter just as they call the moon a satellite of earth except in the context of your silly contention.
145 posted on 06/23/2006 12:31:49 AM PDT by UnbelievingScumOnTheOtherSide (Give Them Liberty Or Give Them Death! - IT'S ISLAM, STUPID! - Islam Delenda Est! - Rumble thee forth)
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To: aMorePerfectUnion

Anti-Plutites!!!!!


146 posted on 06/23/2006 12:36:45 AM PDT by Republican Wildcat
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To: PatrickHenry

I like the idea of eight major planets and any number of minor planets that would include Pluto. You can choose where the dividing line goes between "not a planet" and a "minor planet." But leave the eight fixed major planets.


147 posted on 06/23/2006 12:41:41 AM PDT by FreedomCalls (It's the "Statue of Liberty," not the "Statue of Security.")
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To: DannyTN
Re: star vs planet
if we think it's big enough to burn it's on matter, but isn't doing so? What if it's doing so but only on a very limited basis and doesn't look like a star?

As Jupiter currently does. It emits more radiation than it receives from the Sun. None of it is in visible wavelengths though. Is Jupiter therefore a star?

148 posted on 06/23/2006 12:49:50 AM PDT by FreedomCalls (It's the "Statue of Liberty," not the "Statue of Security.")
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To: FreedomCalls
As Jupiter currently does. It emits more radiation than it receives from the Sun. None of it is in visible wavelengths though. Is Jupiter therefore a star?

So did the earth when it was in its molten state and still would if not for its insulating crust. The point is that Jupiter does not have enough mass to sustain a 4H fusion chain reaction. Of course, matter could accrete slowly enough in a larger object that fusion would never ignite, or so fast in a smaller object that fusion would occur briefly in a smaller object, or that an object would be so hydrogen-poor that fusion would not occur. And many stars no longer have a chain reaction going because their fuel is exhausted. These stars will continue to cool forever until they resemble terresatrial planets except for their mass and density. Some of the lightest of these may even resemble gas giant planets like Jupiter because there is not enough gravity to reduce its outer layer to white dwarf electron degeneracy. So the dividing line between the largest planets and smallest stars is a mathematical calculation of the smallest mass that will create the nuclear confinement to sustain a continuous fusion process, regardless of whether such process is, will or ever had taken place.
149 posted on 06/23/2006 3:59:49 AM PDT by UnbelievingScumOnTheOtherSide (Give Them Liberty Or Give Them Death! - IT'S ISLAM, STUPID! - Islam Delenda Est! - Rumble thee forth)
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To: FreedomCalls
"As Jupiter currently does. It emits more radiation than it receives from the Sun. None of it is in visible wavelengths though. Is Jupiter therefore a star?"

Yeah, I thought there was something like that about Jupiter. Under his definitions I think Jupiter is too big to be a planet. There will be ceaseless arguments about what size, what mass, what makeup constitutes a planet.

But it's the small end that really gets me. How do you know when a planet's gravity is stronger than it's material.

His definitions are about the worse I can imagine, and yet he thinks they are concise.

150 posted on 06/23/2006 5:03:08 AM PDT by DannyTN
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