Skip to comments.Pluto Could Lose Planet Status
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.
In other Plutonian news: Pluto's newest moons get names: Nix, Hydra.
It's good to start the day with a laugh. Thanks.
This is the work of the big corporations always picking on the little people and the little planets. Somebody call the ACLU.
They should kick Uranus out.
This is what has been keeping me up at night. I hope they resolve it soon.
You can't just make a guy part of the family then all of the sudden revoke his planet status. It ain't right. I'm with you Pluto, to hell with what they say.
The Solar System's planets can end at Neptune, as it (currently) is the farthestmost planet that is generally in the same plane as the other planets.
Relegated to junk-planet status.
I'm rooting for official status to Planet Xena and Moon Gabrielle.
This is outrageious. First they kick Taiwan out of the UN, then they kick Pluto out of the solar system. What's next? Are we going to rename Earth and start calling it something stupid like "the Planet"? Citizens of the Solar System unite and Save Pluto Now!!
I think my third grade teacher owes me better grade on that science test!
Actually, they just swapped the Republic of China for the People's Republic of China, though today Taiwan is for the large part a de facto country.
"Interplanet Janet" of Schoolhouse Rock fame has become obsolete!!
Don't try and dodge the issue - We're talking about Pluto here, damnit! /s :-)
If I were Pluto, I would just take my moons and leave the Solar System!
No way would I stay around and be the Joe Leiberman of the Universe!
But does Pluto really care? Let's do a poll.
It's not personal, it's just business.
UB313 is good, honorable, hardworking planet doing the orbit Solarian planets wont do.
Does that mean it will be harder to get an FHA-guaranteed mortgage there?
This is what happens when you let a lot of out-of-staters move in!
But if we get rid of one planet, won't that effect the orbits of the others? If you're an astrologist will this mean a cut in pay? Less reliable horoscopes?
That's just goofy.
Mickey and Goofy might have something to say about this!
Heck just ask Fannie Mae, they will mortgage you the entire planet just so they can try and balance the books....
I like your tagline, but you forgot horsepower.
Uranus has certainly lost it's status over the years. It seems like its' tracks are messy.
This is clear bias against circumfrencially-challenged bodies. When do the protests start?
How did I ever overlook that?!!? Thanks!
Von Strucker must be happy
Didn't they declare Hollywood a planet?
I like it when scientists argue in Aristotelian/Scholastic terms.
LOL! Much better
I define a planet as anything Pluto or bigger that directly orbits a star.
Plutism - plain and simple! Those bloody Plutists!!!
We need special planetary districts to guarantee representation of minority planets.
How about Goofy? (Kerry comes to mind.)
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?
Re: small end of planet
How round is round? We have mountains, does that mean our gravity isn't stronger than our material? Does an asteroid of fine particles that assumes a round shape qualify as a planet?
I think on the small end they should set a specific mass. On the large end, it should not be burning it's own material and it should be orbiting something.
What do we call a planet that's not orbiting a star? Is it still a planet?
I like your tagline, but you forgot horsepower.
Obviously, you've never tried to drive a 2WD truck up a steep hill on bald tires in the middle of winter... There IS such a thing as too much horsepower!!! ;-P
The only thing I learned that sticks in my head is: Stars twinkle, planets do not.
Interesting. Both Titan and Ganymede are larger than the planet Mercury...
That's not too much horsepower, that's a baldness problem.
I was thinking balls could get added to that list, but then some guys have more balls than brains, and that's not good.
I have an VERY old USA atlas. There are several planets named and shown in their orbits besides what we learned in school.