Eight is Enough, eh...

Well now, after all the hooplah and recent discussion as to how many more planets we might be gonna have, the International Astronomical Union went and did the rational thing.

Pluto is no longer
called a planet. Now it's a Dwarf Planet.

Link] Astronomers have labored without a universal definition of a planet since well before the time of Copernicus, who proved that the Earth revolves around the sun, and the experts gathered in Prague burst into applause when the guidelines were passed.

Predictably, Pluto's demotion provoked plenty of wistful nostalgia.

"It's disappointing in a way, and confusing," said Patricia Tombaugh, the 93-year-old widow of Pluto discoverer Clyde Tombaugh.

"I don't know just how you handle it. It kind of sounds like I just lost my job," she said from Las Cruces, N.M. "But I understand science is not something that just sits there. It goes on. Clyde finally said before he died, 'It's there. Whatever it is. It is there.'"

The decision by the IAU, the official arbiter of heavenly objects, restricts membership in the elite cosmic club to the eight classical planets: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune.

Pluto and objects like it will be known as "dwarf planets," which raised some thorny questions about semantics: If a raincoat is still a coat, and a cell phone is still a phone, why isn't a dwarf planet still a planet?

Big whoop.

Well, yah. It
is a big deal and, despite some folks' disgust, it seems to make perfect sense to me.
[Link] NASA said Pluto's downgrade would not affect its $700 million New Horizons spacecraft mission, which this year began a 9 1/2-year journey to the oddball object to unearth more of its secrets.

But mission head Alan Stern said he was "embarrassed" by Pluto's undoing and predicted that Thursday's vote would not end the debate. Although 2,500 astronomers from 75 nations attended the conference, only about 300 showed up to vote.

"It's a sloppy definition. It's bad science," he said. "It ain't over."

Science corrects scientists, otherwise they're either not good scientists or, like I'd guess about Mr. (Dr.?) Stern, they're overly concerned with the language; most probably for political reasons.

The solar system hasn't changed at all. We're just naming its inhabitants more precisely now. Though I'm not sure from what's posted if those names are still goin' to include plutons, or if the Dwarf Planet designation replaces that as well.

Good night.


  1. Aren't you starting to feel space-sick with all this back and forth? I think it's funny that poor little Pluto is out there, just bein' what it always was, and pretty unconcerned about what a bunch of yackety apes several planets away (wait!! what's a planet??) think about its status and definition.

    dwarf planet: n. sometimes called "pluton" or "planet". Might be very important in astrology if called "Pluto". Mostly harmless.

  2. Mostly Harmless


    errr.... So they say.


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