Pluto Downgraded?

mejane

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#1
I've just heard on the World Service that Pluto is no longer considered a planet as some little upstart has been discovered.

A (very quick) search turned up this:

http://www.nature.com/nsu/021007/021007-3.html

The new object rejoices in the name of Quaoar, which I defy anyone to pronounce correctly!

Jane.
 

rynner2

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#2
I've been whingeing for years that Pluto is not a real planet! It has a more elliptical orbit than any other planet (it sometimes comes inside the orbit of Neptune), and the plane of the orbit is also at a large angle to that of the other planets. It is also far smaller - in fact Pluto is smaller than Earth's moon (2,400 km v. 3,476 km diameter)!

But as the article states, the IAU did vote to retain its planetary classification just a few years ago. But for me Pluto is just one of the largest of a huge fleet of icy chunks on the inner edge of the Kuiper belt - some even come inside the orbit of Uranus.
 
A

Anonymous

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#4
Speaking of Uranus (oo-er), according to the BBC they've just discovered it has another moon, called S 2001 U1.
 

NilesCalder

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#5
So how many planets are there now?

Is Quaoar a planet now (seeing it's in a planetary orbit 'n' all) or is it just an asteroid?

Do we have 8 or 9? Ryn?
 
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Anonymous

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#8
Re: Planet X

I thought I read somewhere that it was determined that the orbit disruptions that were being attributed to the speculative "Planet X" have been reassigned to the objects in the Kuiper belt?
 

James_H

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#9
Fallen Angel said:
Hey now! Do I refer to YOUR hometown as "speculative"? Be nice.
Lots of speculation goes on in oxford. People get paid for it, and all.
 

rynner2

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#10
Niles Calder said:
Is Quaoar a planet now (seeing it's in a planetary orbit 'n' all) or is it just an asteroid?

Do we have 8 or 9? Ryn?
Quaoar is a KBO (Kuiper Belt Object) - as is Pluto, IMHO, so I say 8!

But I don't get to say, the IAU does. :(
 
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Anonymous

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#11
Shouldn't astrologers be able to tell us if Quaoar (or Pluto for that matter) is a "real" planet? If astrology had anything going for it, there would presumably be some odd character trait that was previously unexplained.

In fact, thinking about it, as the astrological effects of the planets doesn't appear to follow any kind of inverse square law, I would have thought that astrology would have a *far* better chance of discovering new worlds. ;)
 

minordrag

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#12
I don't think there's standard criteria for what is or isn't a planet. As I heard an astonomer say yesterday, "it's like deciding whether Australia is a continent or an island." At some point you have to draw the line, and the best that can be said for proper planets is that they're, well...really big. With something of a non-elliptical orbit.:spinning
 
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Anonymous

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#13
Re: Re: Planet X

Fallen Angel said:
I thought I read somewhere that it was determined that the orbit disruptions that were being attributed to the speculative "Planet X" have been reassigned to the objects in the Kuiper belt?
Yep.. however, planet X was originally insinuated from significant deviations in the outer planets orbits, and the Kuiper belt objects so far discovered are too small to have any noticeable gravitional effect...
Planet X could still be out there.
 

tzb57r

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#14
Textbook definition? Good luck
Finding a textbook definition for the word "planet" is tricky. Amazingly, many science and astronomy books -- just like the IAU -- don't define the word. You won't find a basic definition in the New York Public Library's Science Desk Reference, for example. And in the 1999 edition of Universe, a comprehensive tome used widely in college courses, "planet" is not even an entry in the 21-page glossary.
The above quote comes from Space.Com and this link gives you the whole page.

This is a curious debate. What we call Pluto is immaterial, but for consistency it should be categorised as a KBO. It is only due to historical error that it was incorrectly classified as a planet. This is bigger than just Pluto (everything is bigger than Pluto that’s the problem) in fact there is a blurring of giant planets into small stars,
i.e. Jupiter => Very Large exo planets => Brown Dwarfs => Very Dim Red Dwarfs

Also when does an object in orbit above a planet get so small that it stops being a moon and starts being captured debris or ring material?

Half the problem is that our nomenclature is binary, but the real world is analogue.
 
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Anonymous

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tzb57r said:
there is a blurring of giant planets into small stars,
i.e. Jupiter => Very Large exo planets => Brown Dwarfs => Very Dim Red Dwarfs
You could usefully divide brown dwarfs up into smaller, cooler methane brown dwarfs and larger lithium brown dwarfs...


Also when does an object in orbit above a planet get so small that it stops being a moon and starts being captured debris or ring material?

Half the problem is that our nomenclature is binary, but the real world is analogue.

Taking the solar system as example, there is a curious lack of moons with satellites themselves. Pluto which can be re-classified usefully as a KBO has a moon, but is smaller than many real moons, none of which have secondary satellites.
there is a discontinuity here , probably explianed by orbital stability, but still a little odd.
steve b
 

tzb57r

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#16
Pluto which can be re-classified usefully as a KBO has a moon, but is smaller than many real moons, none of which have secondary satellites.
Quite right. Moons don’t have moons as any body orbiting another body that is orbiting very closely to a third body will be perturbed and either captured or thrown out by the larger body. This is why the orbital calculations for a gas giant orbiting a star at the orbit of Mercury could not support any large moons for a prolonged period of time. It also means that if we ever do find a moon with a moon then something in the system has been captured quite recently.
 
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Anonymous

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#17
New Planet Discovered in Solar System

I saw this on a BBC newscast last week whilst on holiday, I'm surprised it's not been mentioned:

"A new planet-like object has been found circling the Sun more than one and a half billion kilometres beyond Pluto.

Quaoar, as it has been dubbed, is about 1,280 kilometres across (800 miles) and is the biggest find in the Solar System since Pluto itself 72 years ago. "

Full story from the BBC
here
 
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Anonymous

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#20
Planet Pluto to do a "Newport County"?

Newport County used to be a League football team. Unfortunately they finished bottom of the old Fourth Division, and were bankrupted and dissolved. It doesn't mean that no-one plays football in Newport, but they now play in a minor league. So the analogy here is being "permanently relegated" to a more minor position.
The planet Pluto is still, in football terms, playing in the League. However, its position there has been considerably weakened by the discovery of a large body on the outskirts of the Solar System. Christened Quaoar, it is the largest body discovered in our Solar System since Pluto first came to our attention in 1930. About 800 miles in diameter, and orbiting at a distance of about 4 billion miles from the Sun, it is known as a Kuiper Belt Object, or KBO.
The problem for Pluto is that there are likely to be a lot more of these KBOs discovered. They are really just left-overs from the formation of the Solar System, orbiting in the bitter icy wastes far beyond Neptune, where the sun is just an actinic spark in the blackness. Since KBOs cannot all be called planets, it inevitably raises the question of whether Pluto itself can any longer be called a planet. It may be only a matter of time before Pluto will be permanently relegated to the league of mere KBOs.
One small point in Pluto's favour is that it does have a moon to call its own. Alas, that may not be enough to save it.
Can I therefore be the first to coin the mnemonic Many Volcanoes Erupt Mulberry Jam Sandwiches Uniquely Nastily? Sorry - no more P.

Bill Robinson
 
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Anonymous

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#21
There are another couple of Kuiper belt Objects that are bigenough to have names
Varuna and Ixion
and 2002 AW197 which is nearly as big
they are all about as big as Charon , Pluto's moon

If the hydrogen in the ice could be used in a fusion reactor or two, even these cold worlds could sustain a colony.
 
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#22
More on large Kuiper Belt bodies:

Huge Mini-World Found in Outer Solar System

By Robert Roy Britt
Senior Science Writer

posted: 12:50 pm ET
19 February 2004



Updated at 5:13 p.m. ET

A newfound hunk of ice and rock beyond Neptune is larger than most and might contend for the title of the biggest object in the solar system besides the Sun, planets and moons.

The object is in a region of frozen, comet-like bodies called the Kuiper Belt. The discovery was announced today by the Minor Planet Center in Cambridge, Mass.

Preliminary observations suggest the icy rock, labeled 2004 DW, is 520-1,170 miles wide (840 to 1,880 kilometers). Physics dictates that objects this large be generally round, like mini-worlds.

The largest known Kuiper Belt Object, or KBO, is called Quaoar (KWAH-o-ar) and was discovered in 2002. Quaoar is roughly 780 miles (1,250 kilometers) wide, about half as big as Pluto. It orbits the Sun every 288 years, mostly beyond Pluto's orbit.

More observations will be needed to pin down the size of the newfound KBO. It may turn out to be much smaller than Quaoar, or it could be bigger.

Researchers estimate the size of these objects by noting their brightness and making assumptions about how much light they reflect. Those assumptions assume a certain level of reflectivity for the surface material.

The discovery was made by Caltech's Mike Brown and colleagues Chad Trujillo and David Rabinowitz as part of the same survey that found Quaoar two years ago.

"The object is probably about 1,600 kilometers in diameter, larger than the 1250-kilometer Quaoar," the researchers said today in a web posting. "If subsequent measurements verify this size estimate, this would make 2004 DW the largest minor planet known, and larger than Pluto's moon Charon, which is about 1,300 kilometers in diameter. This still doesn't beat Pluto, which is about 2,300 kilometers in diameter."

The finding was confirmed with observations by a team based at the Starkenburg Observatory in Germany and other sightings from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory's Table Mountain Observatory in southern California.

"It wasn't moving much, so I knew it was way out there," Table Mountain's Jim Young told SPACE.com. Researchers measure an object's movement against the fairly stable background stars to gauge its distance. "I went home and told my wife, '"That things gotta be big.'"
2004 DW is nearly 47 times as far from the Sun as Earth is.

Scientists expect more large objects to be found in the Kuiper Belt now that search techniques and technology have been refined. Some astronomers say it's possible that an object larger than Pluto might still lurk there unfound.

Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story gave discovery credit to NASA's Near-Earth Asteroid Tracking Program. That program had sent the discovery data to the Minor Planet Center but was not directly involved in the discovery.
http://www.space.com/scienceastronomy/new_object_040219.html

There more news links have some good stories too including a report on Nemesis.

Emps
 
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Anonymous

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#25
some comments on characterizing Pluto as a planet

To all:

The issue of whether Pluto constitutes a planet or not, actually, reveals a lot about the process of what is termed "science", these days. More a back-and-forth than anything else, the source of the dispute lies more with the fact that it is based on an, at best, nebulous concepts, and geared toward "legitimizing" pre-determined "facts", rather than deriving whatever the actual truth is. Rather than start from - or, at least, try to derive - some accepted idea of what a "planet" is, instead, ideas and challenges, undefined proclivities and prejudices, hit, head-to-head, and, basically, whoever gets the most support - in whatever manner! - "wins"! Devotees of older conceptualizations and space art have one idea. Those determined to push the idea of the Kuiper Belt, and, likely, finance expensive searches, apparently, "adopt" a separate concept! Whoever manages to get the most influential individuals behind them, usually by dangling the prospect of big money line-item appropriations before them, generally, seems to be the one the media "crowns the victor", by assigning their assertions to print!

But that is not the way true science is supposed to work! Indeed, terming Pluto a planet or not does rest on affirming what the word "planet" generally and universally can be represented as meaning. And, there, it seems there has been little work done. But defining what "planet" means should be based on ideas intrinsic to what the general concept of a planet is, not whatever term will facilitate cadging big money in grants and appropriations.

By and large, the invoking of a Kuiper Belt of icy-rocky bodies beyond Neptune has been used to "jusify" large-scale proposals for deep space telescope assays, in the hopes of finding as many large bodies as possible. "Defining" Pluto as, not a planet, but just one of these bodies, has added media exposure and controversy as a driving force for these ambuitious - and expensive! - surveys! Establishing that Pluto constitutes a planet, and not a "Kuiper Belt Object" could threaten to take this glitz and panache away.

But the truth doesn't necessarily work on the basis of who can get what from where. And a decent approach would be based more on the idea of establishing what "planet" really means, than on trying to set up a grant proposal.

Since, unfortunately, a genuine look at what calls itself "science" today will see a system dominated by money, with the search for truth a little, out-of-the-way consideration, it turns out that those not affiliated with cash-hungry institutions or organizations can, perhaps, be more trusted to act legitimately. And don't think that someone without a dozen letters after their name can't make a genuine, even universal, contribution! Isaasc Newton is credited with establishing the basis for modern physics, but he didn't have an MIT degree! You can't allow their insistences that you're just a dummy, who doesn't deserve to be heard, convince you of that!

Defining what a planet is rather resembles the Sorites Paradox, the question of when a "collection of sand particles" starts to constitute "a heap". In fact, there is a certain degree of understanding as to what a "heap" should look like. If you put just one particle of sand in front of you, you, likely, would not term it a "heap". Two bits of sand, likewise, would not be automatically considered a "heap". But, add particle after particle, and eventually, you will term what you see a "heap". Where does the change come about, between a "collection", the paradox asks, and a "heap"? In the same way, it might be questioned, when does something cease to be just "an orbiting body", and become "a planet"?

In fact, though, there are criteria that come into play in considering a "heap", as well as those that can be invoked in considering the nature of a "planet".

Sheer number does not, for example, constitute a "heap". If you had a billion sand particles in a 125 foot by 125 foot square, it would only be "a sandy surface". Being on top of each other doesn't, either, since a two-layer collection of sand, 80 feet square would still appear like just a flat surface. A "heap" requires a collection in some central point, consisting of much more than stretches out to the sides. If, in fact, the height is comparable to, or greater than the width at the base, it can be considered a heap. Closer to how a heap behaves, you can say that if it exceeds the angle of repose, so that parts on the sides fall down at the slightest provocation, or it is close to the size of the person judging it, it can be called a heap. In any event, there are fairly well understood characteristics which can be invoked to consider it a heap or not.

In the same way, there can be definite, and all but non-arbitrary, qualities that can be invoked to determine if a body is a planet or not.

In point of fact, anything orbiting the sun can be called a “planet”. In the same way, anything orbiting it can be called an “orbiting body”. Those advocating terming Pluto a “Kuiper Belt Object”, continually bring up the image of “rubble” left over from the beginning of the solar system, lumps of material that did not collide and coalesce into larger bodies. They are represented as idle pieces of ice and dust, orbiting perpetually, after the formation of the official planets had finished.

One significant problem with this is that the coalescing of the solar system is not yet done! The impact of Comet Schumacher-Levy on Jupiter, Stuart’s Event on the moon, and, likely, the Tunguska Explosion indicate that bodies in the solar system are still sweeping up material. If you argue that Pluto cannot be a planet because it is “rubble” that has yet to combine to form a planet, you have to remember the theory that the moon was formed by the earth, when it was only about 80% the size it is today, being hit by an object about the size of Mars, vaporizing and shooting off a huge pocket of material that formed the moon. Both objects were bodies involved in the still incomplete formation of the solar system, yet were both larger than Pluto. Bodies of their size would be considered planets today, even though they were “rubble” from which larger bodies were composed!

In terms of appointing the term “planet”, though, it is crucial to bring up those qualities that we would expect of something termed a planet, yet which we can expect to be absent in something constituting a simple “orbiting body”.

The, generally inert conceptualization associated with a simple “orbiting body”, at least at present, would then suggest that part of what would comprise a “planet” would be a vital nature, a definite active or changeable character. This would include such things as a spherical shape, due to a gravity strong enough to cause it; an atmosphere; tectonic activity; radial differentiation of material, due to gravity; significant differences in topography, across the face of the body; a magnetic field; a sizable satellite. Pluto is spherical and has a relatively large moon. It also seems to have an atmosphere, perhaps about 1/1,000,000 earth’s, but with temperature differences across it, it is suggested. Changes in albedo of subsurface material are also suggested to cause localized absorption of sunlight, producing geysers of sorts. It is suggested that its makeup consists of a relatively large rocky core, covered by a thick layer of water ice, with variegated “surface ices” in a thin region above that. Its gravity is probably also strong enough to cause some internal heating.

Perhaps another quality to be looked for is the simple fact that, when on the surface of a planet, you don’t know you’re on a planet. On the earth, looking outward, your range of vision covers two almost exactly equal sized sections, the ground and the sky. For a smaller body, the horizon would curve more, and take up less of the vision. It would be more obvious that you were on the surface of something. The most of your vision that any planet should take up is 50%. If it took up only 25%, that could be considered too little. It would be just too obvious you were on the surface of a body if only one quarter of your entire view was that body, and the rest sky. We can, then, split the difference and suggest that, if a person, standing on the surface of a body, has at least 37.5% of their view taken up by the body, then it qualifies as a planet.

These are reasonable, and, more important, not agenda driven considerations, for defining a planet. No matter how much you may want to suggest that Pluto is composed very largely of ice and is close in size to bodies orbiting further out, in the Kuiper Belt, these conditions still qualify Pluto as a “planet”! There are those who may suggest that Pluto formed by accretion of icy/rocky bodies, but all the officially accepted planets did! Such things as that Pluto is inclined significantly to the ecliptic, and it has the largest eccentricity of any major body are invoked to suggest that it is not a planet. But these are characteristics of its orbit, not the body itself! Many interactions can cause a more traditionally planet-like body to have so unusual an orbit. Too, it can be suggested that, so far out in the solar system, away from the bulk of activity, and with fragments moving so slowly in orbit, Pluto could have formed with less impulse to force it to follow the exact same lockstep as the inner worlds. Indeed, it is almost too close to the orbits of the other planets for something so far out in the solar system! Too, how many of the officially designated “Kuiper Belt Objects” have high eccentricities to their orbits, or highly inclined orbits? A number, in fact, have inclinations in orbit much less than Pluto’s!. It is commented that Pluto is smaller than seven moons in the solar system, but it’s larger than dozens more! Its axis of rotation is, supposedly, tipped at more than 90 degrees to the ecliptic, but so is Uranus’! There are even suggestions that Pluto’s moon, Charon, formed by a portion of Pluto being ripped off in a massive collision with another body, such as is suggested for earth!

Just because Pluto formed near the Kuiper Belt, out of Kuiper Belt objects, doesn’t mean it, too, must be considered a Kuiper Belt object. The general theory is that all the official planets formed from Kuiper Belt objects, and since the Kuiper Belt is theorized to be many times the size of the solar system, in extent, every planet can be said to have be en formed “near the Kuiper Belt”!

In fact, the decision to downgrade Pluto seems to be motivated by the initiative to emphasize the idea of the Kuiper Belt, and, likely, to give Dave Jewitt, proclaimed an expert of the Kuiper Belt, and the man who proposed downgrading Pluto, publicity. But machinations aren’t supposed to be the basis for constructing scientific definitions, but, rather, the application to reality, to make discoveries or determinations.



Julian Penrod
 

lopaka

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#26
A general overview, in honor of Pluto's 75th *birthday*.



Pluto discovered 75 years ago, but what is it?

Tuesday, February 15, 2005 Posted: 10:12 AM EST (1512 GMT)

FLAGSTAFF, Arizona (AP) -- It's been 75 years since the discovery of Pluto, but it remains a mystery. Perhaps in another 10 years some of its secrets will be revealed when a space probe gets close enough for a good look.

Pluto was quickly heralded as the ninth planet in the solar system when it was spotted February 18, 1930 by Clyde Tombaugh, a young amateur astronomer at Lowell Observatry. It still holds that title today, if somewhat tenuously.

"It's a misbehaved planet if you want to think about it as a planet," said Neil deGrasse Tyson, director of New York's Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History.

Tyson provocatively removed Pluto from his exhibit of planets five years ago, lumping it instead with a belt of comets at the edge of the solar system.

"I still have folders of hate mail from third-graders," he said.

Pluto was discovered in a search for a theoretical ninth planet. The 26-year-old Tombaugh was given the assignment. Had he not been so attentive, he might have missed Pluto as he stared through an eyepiece while switching back and forth between photographic images of the night sky over northern Arizona. But he believed right away the recurring speck he saw was the elusive Planet X later called Pluto.

Generations of schoolchildren grew up memorizing solar system charts that included Pluto. But shortly after Tombaugh died in 1997, some astronomers suggested that the International Astronomical Union, a professional astronomers group, should demote the tiniest planet.

At the time it was discovered, Pluto was the only known object beyond Neptune in the solar system. When its moon, Charon, was spotted, that seemingly confirmed Pluto's planet status.

But astronomers also have found about 1,000 other small icy objects beyond Neptune. There may be as many as 100,000 of these bodies in what's called the Kuiper Belt, said Bob Millis, director of Lowell Observatory.

Pluto, with its elongated orbit and odd orbital plane, seems to behave more like other Kuiper Belt objects than other planets, some astronomers say. They also point out Pluto is very small, smaller than Earth's moon.

"You start to see where Pluto fits in better with Kuiper objects," said Hal Weaver, project scientist on the New Horizons mission, which hopes to launch a probe to Pluto next year, possibly reaching it as early as 2015.

Tyson's decision at the Hayden Planetarium to remove Pluto from the planets and lump it with the Kuiper Belt seemed to strike a nerve. Tyson speculates that the name -- the same as the Disney character which also debuted in 1930 -- and its position as the littlest planet make it a favorite with schoolchildren.

"The Plutocracy, as I like to call it, is greater than we want to admit to ourselves," Tyson joked.

But others have pointed out that Pluto remains unique among known objects.

"If you don't call it (a planet), what else do you call it?" asked Kevin Schindler, senior supervisor of public programs at Lowell.

Pluto is very spherical like other planets. Asteroids and comets tend to be misshapen, said Weaver, a senior scientist at Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Laboratory.

Pluto also has an atmosphere and seasons.

Complicating the debate is that there is no official definition for a planet. Setting standards like size limits or orbital patterns potentially invites other objects to take the "planet" label, while throwing Pluto out.

"It's a controversy that flares up and then subsides. I don't know what the outcome will be," said Millis. "It's more interesting to me: What is Pluto really like, than what is Pluto?"

Astronomers hope to get some answers to that question, and the birth of the solar system, with the New Horizons mission. But it will take nearly a decade to reach the icy rock.

In any event, the debate over what to call Pluto is mostly a question of semantics, Weaver said. And even if it somehow loses planet status, he believes it might still be the largest of the Kuiper Belt objects.

"Some people thought (the debate) was a slight of Clyde Tombaugh. You were trying to take away his planet," Weaver said. "I'm sure that it was nothing personal."

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press.
http://www.cnn.com/2005/TECH/space/02/1 ... index.html
 
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#27
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/5099292.stm

Crunch time for Planet Pluto
20 June 2006

At its conference this August, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) will make a decision that could see Pluto lose its status as a planet.

For the first time, the organisation will be officially defining the word "planet", and it is causing much debate in the world of astronomy.

There is only one thing that everyone seems to agree on: there are no longer nine planets in the Solar System.

Matters were brought to a head by the discovery in January of last year of a potential 10th planet, temporarily named 2003 UB313.

Professor Mike Brown and his team at the California Institute of Technology have already discovered several large objects on the edge of the Solar System, but 2003 UB313 is special because it is bigger than Pluto.

The question now facing the IAU is whether to make this new discovery a planet.

Pressing issue

Co-discoverer Dr Chad Trujillo thinks the solution is pretty straightforward.

"The logically consistent thing would be to either have 2003 UB313 a planet, and Pluto be a planet; or have neither be a planet," he told the BBC's Horizon programme.

But Pluto is already an unusual planet. It is made predominantly of ice, and is smaller even than the Earth's Moon.

In 1992, Professor Dave Jewitt and Dr Jane Lu at the University of Hawaii discovered a new collection of objects beyond Neptune called the Kuiper Belt. Some suggest Pluto should no longer be considered a planet, but a Kuiper Belt Object.

As Professor Jewitt says: "We always say we found plus one Kuiper Belt, and minus one planet. And the one we lost, of course, is Pluto."

There are many astronomers who agree with Dave Jewitt and would opt for an eight-planet Solar System, with neither Pluto or 2003 UB313 making the grade; but a number of astronomers are arguing for a more specific definition of a planet.

Kuiper Belt researcher Dr Marc Buie, of the Lowell Observatory in Arizona, has come up with a clear planetary definition he would like to see the IAU adopt.

Different categories

"I believe the definition of planet should be as simple as possible, so I've come up with two criteria," he said.

"One is that it can't be big enough to burn its own matter - that's what a star does. On the small end, I think the boundary between a planet and not a planet should be, is the gravity of the object stronger than the strength of the material of the object? That's a fancy way of saying is it round?"

This definition could lead to a Solar System with as many as 20 planets, including Pluto, 2003 UB313, and many objects previously classified as moons or asteroids.

One possible resolution to the debate is for new categories of planet to be introduced. Mercury, Venus, the Earth and Mars would be "rocky planets". The gas-giants Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune would be a second category.

Pluto, 2003 UB313, and any other objects passing the "roundness test", would be reclassified as a third type of planet - perhaps "icy dwarfs".

Whatever the final outcome, by September there will no longer be nine planets in the Solar System.

...
Ah! That ninth planet, "Planet X".

Pluto status as a planet is now being heavily reviewed. But, it looked so good when the famous Professor Lowell (discoverer and mapper of the canals on Mars), forecast the existence a new ninth planet through mathematical calculation. Fort queried some of the science that seemed to rest on that old devil, 'Reputation'.
http://www.resologist.net/lo108.htm

...

Also, in other ways, how there can be survivals of [98/99] persons and prestiges, or highest and noblest of reputations, was illustrated recently. About April Fool's Day, 1930, the astronomers announced that, years before, the astronomer Lowell, by mathematical calculations of the utmost complexity, or bewilderingly beyond the comprehension of anybody except an astronomer, had calculated the position of a ninth major planet in this solar system: and that it had been discovered almost exactly in the assigned position.(1) Then columns, and pages of special articles, upon this triumph of astronomical science. But then a doubt appeared -- there were a few stray paragraphs telling that, after all, the body might not be the planet of Lowell's calculations -- the subject was dropped for a while. But, in the public mind, the impressions worked up by spreadheads enormously outweighed whatever impressions came from obscure paragraphs, and the general idea was that, whatever it was, there had been another big, astronomical triumph. It is probable that the prestige of the astronomers, instead of suffering, was boomed by this overwhelming of obscure paragraphs by spreadheads.

I do not think that it is vanity, in itself, that is so necessary to human beings: it is compensatory vanity that one must have. Ordinarily, one pays little if any attention to astronomers, but now and then come consoling reflections upon their supposed powers. Somewhere in everything that one does there is error. Somebody is not an astronomer, but he classes himself with astronomers, as differentiated from other and "lower" forms of life, and mind. Consciousness of the irrationality, or stupidity, pervading his own daily affairs, is relieved by a pride in himself and astronomers, as contrasted with dogs and cats.

According to the Lowell calculations, the new planet was at a mean distance of about 45 astronomi- [99/100] cal units from the sun. But, several weeks after April Fool's Day, the object was calculated to be at a mean, or very mean, distance of 217 units. I do not say that an educated cat or dog could do as well, if not better: I do say that there is a great deal of delusion in the gratification that one feels when thinking of himself and astronomers, and then looking at a cat or a dog.

The next time anybody thinks of astronomers, and looks at a cat, and feels superior, and would like to keep on feeling superior, let him not think of a cat and a mouse. The cat lies down and watches a mouse. The mouse moves away. The cat knows it. The mouse wobbles nearer. The cat knows whether it's coming or going.

In April, 1930, the astronomers told that Lowell's planet was receding so fast from the sun that soon it would become dimmer and dimmer.

New York Times, June 1, 1930 -- Lowell's planet approaching the sun -- for fifty years it would become brighter and brighter.(2)

A planet is rapidly approaching the sun. The astronomers publish highly technical "determinations" upon its rate of recession. Nobody that I know of wrote one letter to any newspaper. One reason is that one fears to bring upon oneself the bullies of science. In July, 1930, the artist, Walter Russell, sent some views that were hostile to conventional science to the New York Times.(3) Times, Aug. 3rd -- a letter from Dr. Thomas Jackson -- a quotation from it, by which we have something of an idea of the self-apotheosis of these pundits, who do not know, of a thing in the sky, whether it is coming or going:(4)

"For nearly three hundred years no one, not even a scientist, has had the temerity to question Newton's laws of gravitation. Such an act on the part of a scientist would be akin to blasphemy, and for an [100/101] artist to commit such an absurdity is, to treat it kindly, an evidence of either misguidance or crass ignorance of the enormity of his act."

If we're going to be kind about this, I simply wonder, without commenting, what such statement as that for nearly three hundred years nobody had ever questioned Newton's laws of gravitation, is evidence of.

But in the matter of Lowell's planet, I neglected to point out how the astronomers corrected their errors, and that is a consideration of importance to us. Everything that was determined by their mathematics turned out wrong -- planet coming instead of going -- period of revolution 265 years, instead of 3,000 years -- eccentricity of orbit three-tenths instead of nine-tenths.(5) They corrected, according to photographs.

It is mathematical astronomy that is opposing our own notions.

Photographic astronomy can be construed any way one pleases -- say that the stars are in a revolving shell, about a week's journey away from this earth.

Everything mathematical cited by me, in this Lowell-planet controversy, was authoritatively said by somebody one time, and equally authoritatively denied by somebody else, some other time. Anybody who dreams of a mathematician's heaven had better reconsider, if its angels there be more than one mathematician. [101]

1. "Computations made at the Harvard Observatory today showed that `Planet X,' as the new sphere is called here, was found actually 6 degrees away from the spot where Professor Lowell predicted. Six degrees is equivalent to twelve times the diameter of the moon. The distance between the pointers in the Big Dipper is 5 degrees." "Predicted within 6 degrees." New York Times, March 15, 1930, p.11 c.1.

2. "Traveling toward the sun." New York Times, June 1, 1930, p. 19 c. 2.

3. "Artist challenges Newtonian theory." New York Times, July 21, 1930, p. 21 c. 8.

4. "Scientist and artist dispute Newton and Kepler findings." New York Times, August 3, 1930, s. 3, p. 2E c. 3-4. The quoted scientist was Dr. John E. Jackson, (not Thomas Jackson).

5. "Says Pluto's size is that of Mars," and, "Traveling toward the sun." New York Times, June 1, 1930, p. 19 c. 1-2. The erroneous eccentricity given by the Lowell Observatory was due to an error in the calculations made by Roger Lowell Putnam, who "had forgotten the definition of `eccentricity,' and thinking it was the ratio of the major and minor axes, was not surprised to have it come out .909." William Graves Hoyt. Planets X and Pluto. Tuscon, AZ: University of Arizona Press, 1980, 206.
 

rynner2

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#29
Experts meet to decide Pluto fate

Astronomers are gathering in the Czech capital, Prague, hoping to define exactly what counts as a planet.
The International Astronomical Union hopes to settle the question of Pluto, which was first spotted in 1930.

Experts are divided over whether Pluto - further away and considerably smaller than the eight other planets in our solar system - deserves the title.

The stakes were raised when a bigger planet-type body, known as 2003 UB313, was discovered by a US astronomer.

Professor Mike Brown and colleagues at the California Institute of Technology have discovered several other planetary objects in an area at the edge of the solar system known as the Kuiper Belt.

Now delegates to the Prague conference are being asked to agree on a formal definition of what is a planet for the first time.

One potential outcome of the meeting would be the promotion of 2003 UB313 - nicknamed Xena - into the exclusive club of "official" planets.

But Pluto's status as the ninth planet could also be in danger if the experts decide it no longer makes the grade.

Discovered in 1930, Pluto is just 2,360km (1,467 miles) across, and is vastly different to more familiar planets such as our own Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn or even Neptune, Pluto's nearest neighbour.

But after being measured by the Hubble space telescope, 2003 UB313 was classified larger than Pluto, at some 3,000km (1,864 miles) across its diameter.

About 3,000 astronomers and scientists are meeting in Prague to determine the fate of Pluto and the relevance of millions of schoolbooks and encyclopaedias around the world.

There are suggestions the scientists could decide to include Pluto in a new classification system that marks it out as different to the eight larger planets.

The meeting opens on Monday and is due to last 12 days.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/4789531.stm?ls
 

OldTimeRadio

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#30
Mickey's Friend

My guess is a century from now the lowly common people who pay the taxes that support the astronomers will still be calling Pluto a planet.
 
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