Thursday, August 24, 2006

Pluto Demoted

This is terrible! The International Astronomical Union has unilaterally stripped Pluto of the planetary status it has held since its discovery in 1930.

The decision by the prestigious international group sets out strict guidelines that celestial objects must meet before they can be considered for admission to the elite "cosmic club."

Thus, the number of recognized planets in the solar system has been reduced to eight: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. Pluto missed the boat on grounds that it doesn't meet the criteria for “planetship;” i.e., "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 was kicked out of the running because its oblong orbit overlaps with Neptune's. Instead of a bona fide planet, it will be reclassified in a new category of "dwarf planets." This new 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.

NASA said the decision will not affect its New Horizons spacecraft mission which earlier this year began a 9-1/2-year journey to the now-no-longer-a-planet.


kanrei said...

Everyone picks on the runts.

Serena Joy said...

Yeah, really. Look out, lemmings could be next.:)