Tuesday, July 31, 2007

On Pluto's Demotion

"Pluto" is a planet for a simple reason; 6.5 billion people think it is. The opinions of a few hundred professional astronomers do not trump those of everyone else on the planet, so give Pluto a grandfather clause and move on."

"Pluto has been assassinated by a bunch of eggheads who are so far up in the clouds their brains have been oxygen deprived and have lost all contact with the astronomical culture in which they were raised. In honor of the "IAU" , I propose that the next discovered "Kuiper Belt" object of significant size be called "Goofy" ."

"The demotion of Pluto as a planet is so in keeping with our times, In a irreverent world in which professional astronomers no longer look through a telescope, a group of people in a closed-door, bureaucratic fashion have decided to rewrite history. Please, Pluto was born during the classic "Golden Era" of Astronomy. It was one of the original nine planets, leave it alone."

It is coming up to the 1St. anniversary of the historical date in which little Pluto lost its planet status, and the above statements are just a few of the comments and feelings of the people who think Pluto's demotion should not have happened. August 24th. 2006 is when 424 members of the IAU decided that Pluto didn't meet their new requirements to remain a planet. Pluto is now listed in the "Minor Planet Catalog"as number "134340".

Pluto was discovered in 1930 by "Clyde Tombaugh" . Clyde and other Astronomers noticed small discrepancies in the motions of "Uranus" and "Neptune" orbits and thought there must be another planet out there, causing them to look and find Pluto. It was later discovered that Pluto was too small to have any influence on Uranus or Neptune and we now know there are a large number of small objects in the Kuiper Belt beyond the orbit of Neptune that caused these discrepancies, Pluto was a "fortunate accident".

So what is the big deal you say? I say leave Pluto alone, so it doesn't meet the new planet definition, big deal. Stripping Pluto of its planet status and then to give it a number "134340"
is impersonalizing an already user unfriendly Universe. Carey and Ross both commented on one of my posts saying "we must personalize our universe". So where do we go from here? you head over to the "Pluto Petition" . Let your voice be heard, there is still hope, even Scientists and Astronomers had their own petition stating there needs to be a better definition for a planet then the one the IAU came up with. The buzz is, at the next General Assembly of the IAU in 2009, Pluto will probably regain its planet status and all will be well again in the Universe.


Omega said...

Hi Bob,
i'm glad i found your site too, i was into astronomy since i was a child. If i had a mathematical brain, i would probably be an astronomer:)

Thanks for commenting on my blog, i updated the info about the ghost paintings and where to see them, so you are welcome to check it out!

zunnur said...

My question is answered clear and concise, thanks Bob.

Bob Johnson said...

Thanks Zunnur and Omega.

Cindy said...

I really hope it regains planetary status. It seemed...and maybe just because I am one of those people who loves astronomy but am not really geared that way mentally, so maybe I missed something...that it was rather sudden. One day it's a planet, the next it's not. And taking the name away entirely just seems cruel.

Bob Johnson said...

There was a little about Pluto's planet status but you had to be reading astronomy mags and sience journals, which the average joe doesn't.

Laurel Kornfeld said...

You are absolutely correct; the IAU decision was ridiculous and is likely to be overturned in 2009. In fact, the so-called "new planet definition" is so problematic that within days, over 300 professional astronomers led by Dr. Alan Stern, Principal Investigator of NASA's New Horizons Mission to Pluto, signed a petition saying they reject it and will not use it.

Here are some of the major problems with that definition. First, the 424 IAU members who voted (Internet voting wasn't allowed, so if one wasn't in the room, he or she could not vote) determined that a "dwarf planet" is not a planet at all. This makes no linguistic sense. The term "dwarf planet" is a noun modified by an adjective, similar to terms like "grizzly bear" or "planetary science." The 424 IAU members effectively made up their own grammar here.

Second, never in history has there been a requirement that to be considered a planet, an object must "clear its orbit." This was concocted by a small group within the IAU who effectively hijacked the vote (Dr. Stern's words, not mine). Pluto meets every criteria for planetary status--it orbits the sun, is round (has achieved hydrostatic equilibrium), and even has three moons and an atmosphere. The majority of the people who approved this new definition are not even planetary scientists but dynamicists, whose main focus is not objects themselves but what surrounds those objects.

Dr. Stern plans a conference of 1,000 astronomers to re-open this issue prior to the IAU convention in 2009, which also holds the promise of a more public rejection of Pluto's demotion.

There definitely is still hope for Pluto. And remember, it has never stopped being a planet, only being recognized as such by a very small group of people.

Bob Johnson said...

Wow, thanks for your knowledgeable input!

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