Thursday, August 24, 2006

Pluto Gets the Shaft

Being someone who is heavily involved with the study of science, I usually agree with many of the things scientists say. Not because they are scientists but because what they are saying makes scientific sense. Today that all changed. An object in our own star system that has been a planet since 1930 has been declared a "dwarf planet." I may officially give up on astronomy.
The worst part of all this is the way they went about booting Pluto out of the planet club. Meeting in Prague, some 25,000 astronomers debated and fought over the definition of a planet. The debate came to a head last week when it was decided that the group was going to vote between two definitions for planets. The first stated, "any round object larger than 800 kilometers (nearly 500 miles) in diameter that orbits the sun and has a mass roughly one-12,000th that of Earth," would be declared a planet. And this excited me because the definition would have added 3 more planets to the other 9 and Pluto would have stayed in.
Instead the Pluto-hating astronomers voted that a planet is "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." The bastards purposely made this definition because they knew it would automatically excluded Pluto.
I loved Pluto. It was a cool planet. I always wanted to go there and say that I was standing on a planet that is the greastest distance from the Sun. Now I can't. Thanks a lot guys. But I'm not sad. Pluto is in good company. It now joins the ranks of the "dwarf planets." This group includes the previously shafted planet Ceres.
If you've never heard of Ceres, its ok. Ceres was a planet back in the 1800s. It was located among the asteroids between Mars and Jupiter. It is a round object. And it meets the specifications put forth in the first definition I mentioned. Instead, Ceres was demoted to being the largest asteroid in the belt. And then it was promoted to "dwarf planet" under the new definition.
The big problem now comes with teaching the new lineup for planets. All those cool phares we used as kids to remember the planets don't work anymore. So I came up with a new one based on an old classic. The planets are now Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. To remember the order, remember this pharse: My Very Educated Mother Just Sold Us Nuts, and the astronomers that voted against Pluto...suck mine.

1 comment:

Cristrista said...

Yeah, I read this today, and basically came to the same conclusion, this sucks. Pluto is not a planet, and neither is planet X. What you left out, is that of the 2500 astronomers who were attending the meeting in Prague, only 300 actually voted. This was actually lower then the turn out of the average american presidential election.