August 24, 2006

Pluto Demoted. Immediately Files Grievance. - or - Horoscopes The World Over Are Wrong! ... Still!

For a couple days last week I was pretty excited about the prospect of suddenly having 12 planets in our solar system. I was ready to welcome our newly adopted planetary brothers and sisters, Ceres, Charon, and the unnamed baby.

Preceeding this week's International Astronomical Union meeting in Europe, a subcommittee had made some recommendations that would have elevated to full planethood Pluto's moon Charon, producing a binary planet system, along with the asteroid Ceres and the still to be properly named 2003UB313, which originally was hailed as the tenth planet.

Well, now the IAU has done its work. Its evil, dirty work. It has finally, after thousands of years of skygazing, settled for us, on a proper definition of a planet.

And Pluto is out. Dwarf-something, Transneptunian has-been ball of ice just like the rest of 'em. And 2003UB313 is out too. Way out. It will get a name but likely not a planet's name.

This is really all Michael Brown's fault, anyway. He and his group discovered the iceball formerly known as the tenth planet a few years ago, and since the distant body was larger than Pluto, this whole question of what a planet actually is has simmered like a Jovian eye up until week's meeting.

Personally I would just kind of hate to be the guy who dispatched the 9th planet by discovering the 10th. This would be a great joke if Mike Brown's real first name was Charlie. And the IAU was Lucy. And the ball - well, you get the idea.

However, lo and behold Mike Brown is pretty OK with all of this. In fact he explains in quite a clear and convincing manner exactly why the final definition approved by the IAU is correct and proper, here.

In brighter news, it just became 11.11% easier to memorize all the planets.

Story at Bad Astronomy Blog


At 1:16 AM, Anonymous Mike Sheffler said...

I prefer John Hodgman's 'reasonable' properties of a real planet.

1.) Can you beam down to it?
2.) Are there green-skinned women?
3.) Would eat it for food?

At 3:21 PM, Blogger Don Sheffler said...

The correct link for Mike's comment is here

Since Mike's a genius I'm going to assume that this passage gives meaning to the connection with my post:

"It is revealed by the Mangaverse Watcher that Galactus was created by the Mangaverse version of Mephisto, rather than by the Big Bang.

At the beginning of the universe, only 12 planets existed. One planet was a realm of pure evil - Mephisto's world.

A meteor struck Mephisto's world, blasting a huge fragment of it free. This fragment eventually became Galactus."

No, it doesn't explain a lot, but it does touch on the number 12. I'm not into numerology or superstition but I like a nice symbolic allusion.

I guess I still prefer the idea of having 12 planets in our solar system because it just seems right, as right as 12 months, 12 apostles, 12 doughnuts in an old fashioned dozen, and 12 fingers (if we're talking about one of my high school substitute science teachers).


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