Skip to comments.Astronomers say Pluto is not a planet (Eight Planets)
Posted on 08/24/2006 7:18:05 AM PDT by Lunatic Fringe
PRAGUE, Czech Republic - 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.
It was unclear how Pluto's demotion might affect the mission of NASA's New Horizons spacecraft, which earlier this year began a 9 1/2-year journey to the oddball object to unearth more of its secrets.
The decision at a conference of 2,500 astronomers from 75 countries was a dramatic shift from just a week ago, when the group's leaders floated a proposal that would have reaffirmed Pluto's planetary status and made planets of its largest moon and two other objects.
That plan proved highly unpopular, splitting astronomers into factions and triggering days of sometimes combative debate that led to Pluto's undoing.
Now, two of the objects that at one point were cruising toward possible full-fledged planethood will join Pluto as dwarfs: the asteroid Ceres, which was a planet in the 1800s before it got demoted, and 2003 UB313, an icy object slightly larger than Pluto whose discoverer, Michael Brown of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena has nicknamed Xena.
Charon, the largest of Pluto's three moons, is no longer under consideration for any special designation.
Wait til the Plutonians hear about this. They're gonna be pissed, blame Bush and start a galactic jihad.
There are still 9 in my book.
"My Very Elegant Machine Just Smashed Up Nine." ???
This is a wise decision.
Pluto was always a nutty anomaly, with its orbit, and later its asymmetric appearance.
It always seemed more like an asteroid.
Mother Very Thoughtfully (Terra) Made a (asteroid belt) Jelly Sandwich Under No Protest!
Personally I would consider an object with an atmosphere that orbits the sun a planet. Moons would still be moons because they orbit planets.
Good riddance. I've always hated this oversized potato.
On ABC radio news the reporter just got finished with the story, and sent it back to the anchor with, "...so now children will be reciting eight planets. Can you name them, Doug?"
"Let's see: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus. This is ..., ABC news"
I'm not sure if he just can't count?...LOL
Doesn't that mean that Neptune too, the orbit of which must overlap Pluto's is also not a planet? Especially since it's orbit overlaps Pluto's, Neptune has failed to have "...cleared the neighborhood around its orbit."
I have'nt been this upset since they declared that Dagobah was not a planet.
That means I can have it?
Mother Visits Every Monday and (asteroid belt) Just Stays Until Noon.
(The "Period" was Pluto. I'd say it's small status in the sentence, foretold it's doom as a planet!)
Pluto is now open to colonization by muslim terrorists without the need of civil war and elections. Let's help them get there!
Sounds to me like someone wants to sell books.
This change will necessitate changes.
Absolutely, this was the most reasonable decision. I was disheartened a couple of weeks ago when they were going to say there were 12 planets, including Pluto, and the Plutons, yadda, yadda. This definition makes the most sense.
"Mickey's a mouse, Donald's a duck, Pluto's a dog... what's Goofy?"
"Goofy is a dog, he's definitely a dog!"
"He can't be a dog, he wears a hat and drives a car."
Here he is, waiting to hold a press conference.
Thought they were going for 12 and went the other way to head down to 8.
Guess they are not into make-jobs for future astronomers.
I almost went to Prague, because my dad's an astronomer and was invited to the IAU meeting, but we didn't get our passports in time. Anyway, I kinda saw this coming: Somehow I knew they'd declare Pluto not to ba a planet. My dad, however, says if he were there, he would've voted to keep the solar system at 9 planets.
No despite it orbitary clutter, Neptune is OK. But it may be subject to urban renewal or possibly even confiscation by right of imminent domain.
hey,hey,...hey...(giggle) How about Uranus?...hee heee hee(giggle)
I guess they will now do away with Scorpio from Astrology. It was ruled by Pluto!
Heck, I see "dogs" wearing hats & driving cars evvvvvery day. LOL
I hear Uranus has a methane atmosphere.
Modern "science" is now become the result of one form of an opinion poll or another.
1. Global warming is considered "real" because a significant number of scientists think it's man's fault. Not because of studies or experiments. Just a show of hands from the properly chosen group of "scientists."
2. Katrina was a result of global warming, a new poll shows. Who cares about actual meteorology?
3. Abortion is not considered murder. Don't bother with facts, like DNA that differs from the mother. Just a show of hands from the properly chosen group of "doctors."
4. If we don't have embryonic stem cell research, we'll never cure paralysis. Never mind the fact that adult stem cells are ready for approved treatment for over 70 kinds of ailments and embryonic stem cells have only caused cancer in lab rats. But the public demands it! polls say.
5. And now Pluto is not a planet. We couldn't wait 10 years until a probe is sent there to learn more about it. Forget the science...we need a vote, and we need it now!
They're just mad cuz they can't get a space craft there. This way, they can take the "planet" title away and not feel like they "failed". Pffft.
Pluto will always exist in my book.
"Pluto could not be reached for comment."
And no refernce to "dwarf tossing"? Has Free Republic gone PC?
Maybe the astronomers were music lovers who wanted to keep Gustav Holst's most famous composition accurate.
T-t-t-t-h-ey're t-t-t-t-oo d-d-d-amn c-c-c-old to do anything about it!
uh..huhihihihihhuh.... you said ," Youranus"
You forgot string theory: 40 plus years without a testable prediction, unless you count the existence of the 'dilaton', a massless scalar field not observed in nature. An awful lot of the 'research' in string theory is adding bells and whistles to 'explain' why the dilaton field is not observed.
I think that by the standards stated by the leader of the
group(I guess)--you are correct. Neptune has not cleared
Pluto, therefore Neptune is not a planet either.
But maybe Neptune and Pluto haven't been around long enough
for that to happen, maybe at some time in the future, pluto
will be cleared out by Neptune, and have its own even larger
orbit, and maybe less eccentric, and both Neptune and Pluto
will become planets again.
The term "dwarf" is pejorative and offensive and therefore politically incorrect.
They should call them "differently sized" planets.
Has Pluto hired a lawyer yet?
Three moons, round with an atmosphere- Mercury only has one of those qualities. Any change in status for Pluto should have been put off until the arrival of the New Horizons space probe- then astonomers would be better equipped to make a decision as to what Pluto really is.
I am glad they didn't upgrade Charon to "dwarf planet" as had been discussed. That would have requried upgrades for the Moon, Io, Europa, Callisto, Ganameade, Titan and Triton as well.
Yeah, that's the part of the definition that bothers me. I agree that a planet should have sufficient mass for its gravity to force it into a nearly round shape. But the part about clearing its neighborhood is going to make the definition hard to apply, particularly outside of this solar system.
For example, we are doubtlessly going to discover large planets in other solar systems with overlapping orbits, shared orbits and binary planets. This definition would could rule out some massive gas giants from being considered planets.
Oh well, so ends our system's Plutonic relationship.
In terms of distance from the sun, Pluto overlaps Neptune because for 20 years (1979 to 1999) of its 250 year orbit is is closer to the sun. However, it is important to note that the plane of Pluto's orbit is at an angle to the plane occupied by the other planets and major asteroids.
Well then just what the hell is My Very Educated Mother supposed to Just Serve Up Nine of???
TELL ME WHAT!!!
How about "gravitationally challenged" planets?
"It was unclear how Pluto's demotion might affect the mission of NASA's New Horizons spacecraft, which earlier this year began a 9 1/2-year journey to the oddball object to unearth more of its secrets."
moronic statement. it is on its way and will do the studies it was sent to do. i seriously doubt the course it is on allows any modification, even if it is capable of it.