1888Re: Solar system loses a planet
- Aug 24, 2006I wonder if I am the only one in America a little sad about this. I
understand that our thinking and understanding of what constitutes a
planet has changed, and while I think that is good, I am a bit sad
for "Pluto." Perhaps it is because I (we) grew up learning about it
and wondering if man would ever travel so far out in space to get to
it one day. Anyway, just a little sad for it....
--- In email@example.com, Greg Cannon <gregcannon1@...>
> Dinky Pluto loses its status as planet
> By WILLIAM J. KOLE, Associated Press Writer 1 hour, 20
> minutes ago
> PRAGUE, Czech Republic - Pluto, beloved by some as a
> cosmic underdog but scorned by astronomers who
> considered it too dinky and distant, was
> unceremoniously stripped of its status as a planet
> The International Astronomical Union, dramatically
> reversing course just a week after floating the idea
> of reaffirming Pluto's planethood and adding three new
> planets to Earth's neighborhood, downgraded the ninth
> rock from the sun in historic new galactic guidelines.
> The shift will have the world's teachers scrambling to
> alter lesson plans just as schools open for the fall
> "It will all take some explanation, but it is really
> just a reclassification and I can't see that it will
> cause any problems," said Neil Crumpton, who teaches
> science at a high school north of London. "Science is
> an evolving subject and always will be."
> Powerful new telescopes, experts said, are changing
> the way they size up the mysteries of the solar system
> and beyond. But the scientists at the conference
> showed a soft side, waving plush toys of the Walt
> Disney character Pluto the dog and insisting that
> Pluto's spirit will live on in the exciting
> discoveries yet to come.
> "The word 'planet' and the idea of planets can be
> emotional because they're something we learn as
> children," said Richard Binzel, a professor of
> planetary science at the Massachusetts Institute of
> Technology, who helped hammer out the new definition.
> "This is really all about science, which is all about
> getting new facts," he said. "Science has marched on.
> ... Many more Plutos wait to be discovered."
> Pluto, a planet since 1930, got the boot because it
> didn't meet the new rules, which say a planet not only
> must orbit the sun and be large enough to assume a
> nearly round shape, but must "clear the neighborhood
> around its orbit." That disqualifies Pluto, whose
> oblong orbit overlaps Neptune's, downsizing the solar
> system to eight planets from the traditional nine.
> Astronomers have labored without a universal
> definition of a planet since well before the time of
> Copernicus, who proved that the Earth revolves around
> the sun, and the experts gathered in Prague burst into
> applause when the guidelines were passed.
> Predictably, Pluto's demotion provoked plenty of
> wistful nostalgia.
> "It's disappointing in a way, and confusing," said
> Patricia Tombaugh, the 93-year-old widow of Pluto
> discoverer Clyde Tombaugh.
> "I don't know just how you handle it. It kind of
> sounds like I just lost my job," she said from Las
> Cruces, N.M. "But I understand science is not
> something that just sits there. It goes on. Clyde
> finally said before he died, 'It's there. Whatever it
> is. It is there.'"
> The decision by the IAU, the official arbiter of
> heavenly objects, restricts membership in the elite
> cosmic club to the eight classical planets: Mercury,
> Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and
> Pluto and objects like it will be known as "dwarf
> planets," which raised some thorny questions about
> semantics: If a raincoat is still a coat, and a cell
> phone is still a phone, why isn't a dwarf planet still
> a planet?
> NASA said Pluto's downgrade would not affect its $700
> million New Horizons spacecraft mission, which this
> year began a 9 1/2-year journey to the oddball object
> to unearth more of its secrets.
> But mission head Alan Stern said he was "embarrassed"
> by Pluto's undoing and predicted that Thursday's vote
> would not end the debate. Although 2,500 astronomers
> from 75 nations attended the conference, only about
> 300 showed up to vote.
> "It's a sloppy definition. It's bad science," he said.
> "It ain't over."
> Under the new rules, two of the three objects that
> came tantalizingly close to planethood will join Pluto
> as dwarfs: the asteroid Ceres, which was a planet in
> the 1800s before it got demoted, and 2003 UB313, an
> icy object slightly larger than Pluto whose
> discoverer, Michael Brown of the California Institute
> of Technology, has nicknamed "Xena." The third object,
> Pluto's largest moon, Charon, isn't in line for any
> special designation.
> Brown, whose Xena find rekindled calls for Pluto's
> demise because it showed it isn't nearly as unique as
> it once seemed, waxed philosophical.
> "Eight is enough," he said, jokingly adding: "I may go
> down in history as the guy who killed Pluto."
> Demoting the icy orb named for the Roman god of the
> underworld isn't personal it's just business said
> Jack Horkheimer, director of the Miami Space Transit
> Planetarium and host of the PBS show "Star Gazer."
> "It's like an amicable divorce," he said. "The legal
> status has changed but the person really hasn't. It's
> just single again."
> AP Science Writers Alicia Chang in Los Angeles and
> Seth Borenstein in Washington, and correspondents Sue
> Leeman in London and Mike Schneider in Cape Canaveral,
> Fla., contributed to this story.
> On the Net:
> International Astronomical Union, http://www.iau.org
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