so long, pluto

08/27/06 at 11:06 am | Posted in Science, Tech | Leave a comment

Well, what do you know — they voted off Pluto.

This after the International Astronomical Union adopted a new definition of what a planet is after a long and sometimes bitter debate. Originally, it looked like the solar system would have 12 planets instead of 9, but now there are only 8 after Pluto was relegated into the new category of dwarf planets. Check out this BBC News FAQ for answers to some of the burning questions you might have on why Pluto’s no longer a planet.

At least the widow of the scientist who discovered Pluto is taking it relatively well. She’s frustrated by the decision, but said that her late husband, being a scientist, would have understood.

Some scientists, however, including Alan Stern, who leads the NASA New Horizons mission that was launched in January to send an unmanned space probe to Pluto and its satellite Charon, have criticized the decision.

Online petitions like this one have also been launched to save Pluto. Meanwhile, enterprising individuals are cashing in on little Pluto’s demotion.

And jeez, what happens to astrology now? Not to mention all our textbooks.

Thank God we live in the age of the Internet. Wikipedia’s already updated. Here’s an excerpt from their Pluto entry as of this writing:

Pluto is a dwarf planet (until 2006 classified as a true planet) in the solar system and the prototype of a yet to be named family of Trans-Neptunian objects.[1][2] From its discovery in 1930 to 2006, it was considered the ninth and smallest of the planets of the Solar System by the International Astronomical Union (IAU). However, after contemporary observations, recent discoveries and currently available scientific information were evaluated and debated, the IAU decided, on August 24, 2006, to reclassify Pluto as a dwarf planet, requiring that a planet must “clear the neighbourhood around its orbit.”[3] It had qualified as a planet under a draft definition[4] that had been proposed by a committee of the IAU, but which was not accepted by the IAU General Assembly.

Is Neptune next?

Damn, this getting to be like the ultimate reality show. Survivor Solar System, anyone?

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