Thursday, August 24, 2006

Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune. What? That's All?

Yes it is, folks. Pluto has been declassified as a planet today.

The International Astronomical Union set forth the definition of a true planet today in order to clear up the dispute over whether Pluto was not a planet or it and about fourteen others, thirteen of which do not even have names, were planets as well. Looking at the article, the IAU declared that a planet must be a sphere and have a gravitational force of its own by rotation — no problem there, it's a sphere and has three moons, Charon and two unnamed. It also declared that it must orbit around a star — no hitch. However, there was a new qualification that automatically ruled out Pluto: It was possible for it to collide with another planet, in this case Neptune, by intersecting its orbit. Despite the length of time before this could happen — presumably more than 30 million years in the future if Neptune takes 160 years to orbit the Sun and Pluto takes 250. Thus, Pluto was banished to the dwarf planet rank along with the other Trans-Neptunian bodies, reducing the number of planets to eight.

Or, of course, that's how it's expected to be for the time being. This decision, if left to stand, would invalidate any science book printed after 1930, when Pluto's status as a planet was confirmed. With this at hand, the debate is likely to rage on, with a loophole possibly added in order to let Pluto stay and those beyond it remain at dwarf rank. At least I hope so. For one thing, the word planet was first used to describe something orbiting a star (it comes from the Greek for 'wanderer'), and to me this new class of dwarf planets should still constitute planets. Let the IAU set aside the other eight as correct planets, let Pluto and the ones to be found beyond it be another subset. But to me, they are all planets, as they spin, are spherical, and orbit the Sun. To me this new clause of being able to stay out of the path of another planet is ridiculous as it was so recently conceived (as far as about two days) and could rob us of a story on the cover of the New York Times titled 'Neptune and Pluto Collide, Both Planets Explode Into Dust', just like those old science fiction movies.

1 comment:

ShadowGX said...

It's nuts that they'd do this to me after I've known Pluto as a puny lil planet my entire life! I got a Reeses for Pluto once. =[ Now I can never get a Reeses again!!! Damn you science!

I'm calm.