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Stop Planetary Discrimination Now!

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Jennie McGrath
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« on: August 02, 2007, 10:57:59 pm »

Pluto gets the boot
Pluto no longer a planet, say astronomers

Friday, August 25, 2006; Posted: 1:04 p.m. EDT (17:04 GMT)

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope captured Pluto and its moon Charon in this image.
PRAGUE, Czech Republic (AP) -- Leading astronomers declared Thursday that Pluto is no longer a planet under historic new guidelines that downsize the solar system from nine planets to eight.

After a tumultuous week of clashing over the essence of the cosmos, the International Astronomical Union stripped Pluto of the planetary status it has held since its discovery in 1930. The new definition of what is -- and isn't -- a planet fills a centuries-old black hole for scientists who have labored since Copernicus without one.

Although astronomers applauded after the vote, Jocelyn Bell Burnell -- a specialist in neutron stars from Northern Ireland who oversaw the proceedings -- urged those who might be "quite disappointed" to look on the bright side.

"It could be argued that we are creating an umbrella called 'planet' under which the dwarf planets exist," she said, drawing laughter by waving a stuffed Pluto of Walt Disney fame beneath a real umbrella.

The decision by the prestigious international group spells out the basic tests that celestial objects will have to meet before they can be considered for admission to the elite cosmic club.

For now, membership will be restricted to the eight "classical" planets in the solar system: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune.

Much-maligned Pluto doesn't make the grade under the new rules for a planet: "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."

Instead, it will be reclassified in a new category of "dwarf planets," similar to what long have been termed "minor planets." The 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.

It was unclear how Pluto's demotion might affect the mission of NASA's New Horizons spacecraft, which earlier this year began a 9 1/2-year journey to the oddball object to unearth more of its secrets.

The decision at a conference of 2,500 astronomers from 75 countries was a dramatic shift from just a week ago, when the group's leaders floated a proposal that would have reaffirmed Pluto's planetary status and made planets of its largest moon and two other objects. (Watch why some think planet size doesn't matter -- 3:39)

That plan proved highly unpopular, splitting astronomers into factions and triggering days of sometimes combative debate that led to Pluto's undoing.

Now, two of the objects that at one point were cruising toward possible full-fledged 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."

Charon, the largest of Pluto's three moons, is no longer under consideration for any special designation.

Brown was pleased by the decision. He had argued that Pluto and similar bodies didn't deserve planet status, saying that would "take the magic out of the solar system."

"UB313 is the largest dwarf planet. That's kind of cool," he said.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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Jennie McGrath
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« Reply #1 on: August 02, 2007, 10:59:01 pm »

Aug 25, 5:48 PM EDT

Online Merchants See Green in Pluto News

AP Science Writer

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Not long after puny Pluto was stripped of its planethood, Janis Robinson started selling $25 "PLUTO IS A PLANET" T-shirts on the Internet.

Robinson, who said she "rolled her eyes" after Pluto got the boot, hopes her buyers will send a message that kicking out the far-out rock is downright goofy.

"I'm always going to think of Pluto as a planet," said the 45-year-old semi-retiree from San Jose, who insists she's not peddling shirts on Craigslist for the money. "People who buy this can make a statement that we still believe in Pluto."

Robinson is hardly alone. Scores of Web-savvy sellers hoping to support Pluto and cash in on its demotion to a "dwarf planet" have bombarded the Internet hawking memorabilia worthy of a presidential candidate, from T-shirts and mugs to bumper stickers and mouse pads.

The International Astronomical Union shook up the solar system Thursday when it declared that Pluto was no longer part of the cosmic club - the first time the solar system was altered since Pluto was spotted in 1930.

Under new guidelines, Pluto was downgraded to a "dwarf planet," a new category that also includes the asteroid Ceres, the newly discovered object 2003 UB313, and possibly dozens of others.

On, a San Francisco-area Internet company that prints T-shirts and other merchandise, an explosion of Pluto inventory popped up within 24 hours of the news. By Friday morning, the site featured 200 designs on more than 1,500 products.

Many items and slogans fretted Pluto's demise and pined for the return of the obsolete nine-planet solar system. T-shirts screamed "Save Pluto" and "Stop Planetary Discrimination" while bumper stickers rallied "PLUTO 2006: Running as an Independent Candidate" and "Vote for Pluto."

Buy AP Photo Reprints

Others were more wistful. "Pluto, we hardly knew ye ... 1930-2006" was available in adult and kid's apparel as well as caps and bags.

Los Angeles-based Web programmer Chris Spurgeon took 15 minutes to design a bumper sticker on the site featuring a Hubble Space Telescope image and the slogan "Honk if Pluto is still a planet."

"I'm not burning with anger about the Pluto decision, but it has touched a nerve with a lot of people," said Spurgeon, 51, whose own car is plastered with bumper stickers.

On Friday morning, Spurgeon had received 100 orders for his bumper stickers, which cost $4 each. He plans to donate the money to the Planetary Society, a space advocacy group. spokesman Marc Cowlin said the spike in Pluto-related products probably reflects people's dismay. He said the Pluto items are "hot," but it's too early to tell how well they will sell.

"Pluto is a planet we've known all our lives and suddenly it's not. People are taken by surprise," Cowlin said.

Jennifer Vaughn of the Planetary Society was unfazed to see the surge in Pluto merchandise given the sentimental attachment to the former ninth rock from the sun.

"The public has certainly supported Pluto as a planet," Vaughn said. "They see it as a bit of a cultural loss."

In 1999, when Pluto's planethood was threatened, a barrage of letters from schoolchildren worldwide prompted the professional astronomers' group to issue a rare public statement affirming Pluto's status. It's too early to know how the latest rally around Pluto will affect its demotion, if at all.

Michael Burstein, who heads the Society for the Preservation of Pluto as a Planet, a grass-roots group formed earlier this year, said he was encouraged by the ruckus.

"If someone is creating 'Save Pluto' T-shirts, more power to them. No one has a monopoly on Pluto," he said.


On the Net:

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Jennie McGrath
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« Reply #2 on: August 02, 2007, 11:00:33 pm »

Guys, we have to get behind this. Pluto has always been and always will be a planet! Who are they to tell us any different? Since when did a group of astronomers in Prague, Czechloslavakia get to make decisions for the whole world anyway? I'll bet they're not even members of the damn Illuminati!

According to the definition recently adopted by the International Astronomical Union (IAU), a planet is a celestial body that [1]:

(a) is in orbit around a star or stellar remnants;
(b) has sufficient mass for its self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces so that it assumes a hydrostatic equilibrium (nearly round) shape;
(c) is not massive enough to initiate thermonuclear fusion of deuterium in its core; and,
(d) has cleared the neighbourhood around its orbit.
Under this definition, the solar system is considered to have eight planets. Bodies which fulfill the first three conditions but not the fourth (such as Pluto and 2003 UB313) are classified as dwarf planets, providing they are not also natural satellites of other planets.

Before the adoption of this definition, there was no scientifically specified definition of "planet", though the solar system had been traditionally enumerated as having various numbers of planets over the years, being seven, eight, twelve and, most recently, nine.

This definition wasn't even adopted until 2006, which means it was adopted specifically to be unfair to poor Pluto!
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Jennie McGrath
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« Reply #3 on: August 02, 2007, 11:02:25 pm »

From the people of Pluto:

Dear earthmen,

After our planet shared the same solar system with you for many millions of years, you finally discovered us in 1930. That was a rough year for planet Earth. Here on Pluto things weren't great either, but both of our civilizations survived.

Now, what's amazing is that you've been searching for more planets since Copernicus started in 1500s, searching the sky with telescopes - a method that seems like trying to cover every spot on a piece of paper with a pen the size of a needle tip. This task is definitely not for someone in a hurry, and your persistence has always been rewarded by great discoveries.

After you finally found our planet, you added Pluto to your group of known planets and it became very popular in your culture. By giving one of his popular cartoon characters the same name as our planet, Walt Disney himself made our name more widely known to a lot of you.

Now the times have changed. YOU created your elite cosmic club and now have downgraded the status of our planet. Not only that - you're taking our favorite number away - number 9. Why - because the other planets contribute more to the cosmic club and also have relatives within the club who are using their authority to help their family members. This is very disturbing.

Let's look at them - Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. How are these planets better than Pluto?

There is a rumor that Uranus has lost one of the influential family members at the cosmic club therefore; its current status can be undermined in the near future. We're sure the club will soon come up with more strict tests to squeeze even more money out of us. We are not Guinea pigs neither are we Rockefellers. We are a planet, yes a planet not a big one but a planet. Stop running your telecopic tests on us!

So what, that our orbit overlaps with Neptune's? Let's disqualify Neptune as a planet too. This however, will never happen because they have numerous influential relatives at the cosmic club and therefore Neptune is untouchable.

Somebody from cosmic club came up with a name of "dwarf planet" or "minor planet" for us. Come again? That's what they call asteroids, comets and other natural satellites! Let us spell it out for you. This is d-i-s-c-r-i-m-i-n-a-t-io-n. That's what you do on your Earth and now you're trying to do the same thing in space. Somebody needs to stop this, now!

We have to admit that there were some good people on Earth that tried to defend our status at the planetary level but they were outnumbered by the ruthless rich club members.

The same fate awaited asteroid Ceres, which used to be a planet in 1800s and 2003 UB313 - nicknamed Xena that was discovered by Michael Brown from CIT. Nobody stood up for them back then. Our largest moon Charon is no longer even considered for any designation at all. We didn't mean to **** anybody off. We're just speaking the truth and looking for justice.
Neptunian conflict resolution proposal:

We can easily remove Earth's high rank status from our records but that would be very detrimental to your reputation at the galaxy level. So think twice about what you're doing here.
Let all people on Earth and Pluto vote together before the final decision is made. If everybody agrees to call us a "dwarf planet" then, be it. We will stop taking our demotion with a grain of salt.


Independent Society of Pluto's Cosmic Affairs
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Jennie McGrath
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« Reply #4 on: August 02, 2007, 11:03:11 pm »

They sound a little pissed with us. I hope this isn't the start of some frosty interplanetary relations.
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Jennie McGrath
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« Reply #5 on: August 02, 2007, 11:04:19 pm »

Pluto no longer a planet but Vedic astrology says the same
Posted by hindumommy under Science and Technology , General

The astronomical world had a highly contentious week with lots of debate and have finally decided that Pluto is no longer fit to be a planet - it has been officially downgraded to a dwarf planet today

So everyone’s perception of space has changed and science teachers are scrambling to get ready to teach kids the latest in space.

You would think this would radically change Vedic astrology - instead of ‘navagraha” (nine planets) we now have “asthagraha” (eight planets).

But for believers in Vedic astrology, there’s no cause for concern. Not even if the resolution proposed at the International Astronomical Union is passed and three new planets — 2003 UB313 (Xena), Charon, Ceres —are ‘born’. The addition of three new celestial bodies won’t make our ruling planets go haywire.

Explains astrologer Sunita Chhabra,

“Vedic astrology has never considered planets beyond Saturn. Uranus, Neptune and Pluto aren’t counted in the vedic astrology.” Though one of the new ‘planets’, Ceres, lies between Mars and Jupiter, it’s unlikely to be counted for predictions.
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Jennie McGrath
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« Reply #6 on: August 02, 2007, 11:05:30 pm »

There is hope yet!

Pluto: Down But Maybe Not Out
By Robert Roy Britt
LiveScience Managing Editor
posted: 31 August 2006
02:38 pm ET

If you did not like Pluto's demotion, don't give up hope.

Arguments over the newly approved definition for "planet" are likely to continue at least until 2009, and astronomers say there is much that remains to be clarified and refined.

While it is entirely unclear if the definition could ever be altered enough to reinstate Pluto as a planet, astronomers clearly expect some changes.

In a statement today, the largest group of planetary scientists in the world offered lukewarm support for the definition, which was adopted last week by a vote of just a few hundred astronomers at the International Astronomical Union (IAU) General Assembly meeting in Prague.

Lukewarm support

The definition basically states that the eight worlds from Mercury to Neptune are planets, and that Pluto and other small round objects in the outer solar system are not planets but will be referred to as dwarf planets.

The wording has been heavily criticized as being vague and arbitrary and failing to include planets around other stars. One highly controversial aspect is the idea that a planet must control a zone of space by clearing it of other objects. In fact, Earth and some of the giant planets have not cleared their paths—asteroids cross the planetary orbits frequently and in some cases orbit in lockstep with the planets.

Nonetheless, the Division for Planetary Sciences (DPS) of the American Astronomical Society (AAS) "recognizes the authority of the IAU to render a decision," today's statement reads. "All definitions have a degree of fuzziness that requires intelligent application: what does 'round' really mean? What does it mean to 'control a zone'?"

The statement suggests there are at least three years of wrangling ahead:

"These are technical issues to be addressed by Division III of the IAU, currently chaired by Ted Bowell, a fellow DPS member. There is still work to be done, too, in constructing a definition that is generally applicable to extra-solar planetary systems. These and other changes, radical or moderate, presumably will be addressed at the next IAU General Assembly in Rio de Janeiro in 2009, and the DPS community will continue to be involved in all stages of this process.

[UPDATE 9:10 p.m. ET: A separate group of more than 300 astronomers announced today they will not use the new definition.]

Lack of authority?

Other astronomers have said or indicated that the IAU decision might not carry much weight.

David Morrison, an astronomer at NASA's Ames Research Center, was in Prague for the debates and the vote. He called the resulting definition "reasonable" but termed the IAU process "highly convoluted."

"The definition of a planet is not primarily a science issue. Scientists can (and often do) use all sorts of jargon," Morrison told "This issue is of interest because non-scientists, including writers of science textbooks, want a definition. Now they have one. But it is not obvious to me that planetary scientists will adjust their terminology because of the IAU votes."

The IAU's final proposal was lambasted by many astronomers for having been slapped together at the last minute and for not adhering to recommendations from two separate committees. Morrison was on an IAU committee of astronomers that debated for months on a definition proposal. The one they adopted, Morrison said, was approved by the committee in a vote of 11-8. But it never saw the light of day. Ultimately, another committee of seven, including historians, was formed by the IAU, and the second committee's proposed definition was scrapped too, in the last moments in Prague.

"Is Pluto, then, still a planet? Yes and no," Morrison said. "The answer is semantic, based on whether dwarf planets are planets, just as dwarf pines are pines. I would say that Pluto is a planet, but it is a dwarf planet, and the first example of the class of trans-Neptunian dwarf planets."

Lack of science

The whole debate, many astronomers say, has little if anything to do with science.

Geoff Marcy, a researcher at the University of California, Berkeley, has led the discovery of dozens of planets outside our solar system. "The astrophysics of planetary bodies is so rich and complex that defining 'planet' has never been an issue under discussion among professionals," Marcy said in an email interview earlier this week.

Pressed on whether the definition made any sense, Marcy said: "It makes no scientific sense to have a definition that pertains only to our solar system and not to other planetary systems."

The DPS represents 1,300 astronomers, about a third of them from outside the United States. Today's statement included a phrase that hints at the discontent felt among many members and the likelihood that all is not said and done:

"Ultimately, the definition of a planet will come through common usage and scientific utility. There is no need to throw away current school texts; Pluto has not gone away."

Full Coverage: The Debate and the IAU Vote

Most recent stories at top

BLOG: On to Rio!
BLOG: The Right Decision
New Planet Definition Leaves Scientific Loose Ends
Pluto Demoted: No Longer a Planet in Highly Controversial Definition
3rd Proposal 'Shot Down in Flames'
Details Emerge on Plan to Demote Pluto
Pluto May Get Demoted After All
One Astronomer Says 'It's All About the Atmosphere'
Earth's Moon Could Become a Planet
Public Laughs and Shrugs at 12-Planet Proposal
Astronomers Sharply Divided on New Planet Definition
Adding Planets Means New Textbooks, Toys
Nine Planets Become 12 with Controversial New Definition
Image Gallery: The 12 "Planets"
Defining Moments: The Saga's History

Pluto's Fate to be Decided by 'Scientific and Simple' Planet Definition
JUNE: Definition of 'Planet' Expected in September
2005: Definition Debate: Planets May Soon Get Adjectives
2003: Controversial Proposal Would Boost Solar System's Planet Tally to 12
2000: What is a Planet? Debate Forces New Definition
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Jennie McGrath
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« Reply #7 on: August 02, 2007, 11:06:34 pm »

Scientist Who Found Tenth Planet Discusses The Downgrading Of Pluto

Michael Brown
by Clara Moskowitz
Pasadena CA (SPX) Oct 19, 2006
Still mourning the loss of Pluto as a planet? Blame Caltech astronomer Michael Brown. His 2005 discovery of Eris, a new "planet" past Pluto, prompted other astronomers to redefine what makes a planet, and eventually rule out Pluto and Eris and settle on eight true planets. Pluto and Eris now have the new designation of dwarf planet.
Brown will present the 25th annual Bunyan Lecture at Kresge Auditorium on Wednesday, Oct. 25, at 7:30 p.m., telling the story of his discovery and explaining why it prompted changing the definition of a planet. His talk, titled "Pluto, Eris and the Dwarf Planets of the Solar System," is free and open to the public. The Astronomy Program in the Department of Physics will host the event.

Although initially disappointed that his discovery, Eris, was demoted, Brown said, "It was the right thing to do. I think eight makes much more sense."

Brown scanned the sky for seven years before finally finding what he thought was the "10th planet." Eris is slightly larger than Pluto and orbits three times farther from the sun than Pluto-making Eris the most distant object ever seen revolving around the sun.

The discovery of Eris brought up a dilemma: Just what qualifies as a planet? The familiar idea of nine planets around the sun was dear to many. But for years astronomers had protested that the old classification system, based on purely historical considerations, just didn't make sense. With a new object requesting entry to the club, and the possibility of many more, astronomers had to rethink the issue.

The International Astronomical Union (IAU), a group of scientists that decides astronomical rules, convened a meeting in the summer of 2006 to debate the topic. Astronomers suggested several options, including one that would declare 53 planets currently exist in our solar system. In the end, the IAU defined a planet with three criteria. It must be large enough that its gravity makes it round, it must orbit the sun and it must have cleared its path of any other objects.

Because Pluto lies among ice, rocks and comets, it does not satisfy the path-clearing condition. Eris, for the same reason, also did not make the cut. That leaves eight planets, and little likelihood of more to come. Pluto and Eris were relegated to a new category of objects called dwarf planets, which fulfill the first two rules for planets but don't clear their paths and aren't moons.

Hoping to glimpse new planets, Brown and his team since 1995 have used telescopes at the ground-based Palomar Observatory in Southern California to systematically scan every inch of the sky. To date they have found about 80 objects in the distant regions of the solar system, most of them small.

"The sky is a big place," Brown said, so it took a long time for something as large as Eris to turn up.

For each patch of space they took three photographs over three hours, then used computers to compare the pictures and look for objects that move from one to the next. Because distant stars' positions stay stable in relation to each other, something that moves from frame to frame must be much closer, spinning through our own solar system.

The first time Brown's team members analyzed photos of Eris they missed it. Because Eris is so far away, it appears to move very slightly. Only by going back to the shots for a more thorough look did Brown and his team finally find Eris.

They nicknamed Eris "Xena" at first and called its moon "Gabrielle" after a duo from the TV show Xena: Warrior Princess. But in October 2006 the IAU approved the official name as Eris. When it came time to formally christen the dwarf planet, Brown chose a "good Greek" mythological name.

"Eris is the Greek goddess of discord and strife," Brown said. "She seems like the obvious choice after this whole argument about Pluto." Eris' moon is named Dysnomia, after the mythological daughter of Eris.

The planet debate and its ensuing hoopla has brought fame to Brown, who was one of Time magazine's 100 most influential people this year. Brown finds this ironic, however, because "I'm the third most influential person in my house."

The Bunyan Lecture honors the late James T. Bunyan, a member of the Hoover Institution, whose will specified that his estate endow lectures that "inquire into man's changing vision of the cosmos and of human destiny as revealed in the latest discoveries in the fields of astronomy and space exploration."
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Jennie McGrath
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« Reply #8 on: August 02, 2007, 11:07:17 pm »

Vulcan: The Planet That Never Was
By Mitzi Buchanan
Tue, January 2, 2007, 12:01 am PST

The Solar System as we know it
Alas, poor Pluto. Demoted last year to dwarf planet status -- not really a planet after all. At least its "day in the sun" lasted for 75 years. We bid it a fond farewell as we pluck it out of the solar system mobile from our fourth-grade science project. Now consider the tragic story of Vulcan. It began its life in 1859 as a calculus equation when French mathematician Urbain Le Verrier tried to account for Mercury's deviation from its predicted orbit. Was it caused by a new planet? After all, Neptune was discovered this way. Over the years, scientists and amateur astronomers joined in the search for the hypothetical planet, but Mercury's proximity to the sun made it difficult to view. Was it just a sunspot or an asteroid? It was a moot point by 1915 when Einstein announced his General Theory of Relativity. It neatly explained the wibble in Mercury's wobble and later viewings during an eclipse confirmed it. There was no planet Vulcan. Ah, fleeting fame!
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