Life as I know it… plus commentary

Pluto Still Planet, Illinois senate thumbs nose at IAU

with 2 comments

The hell with what the International Astronomical Union has to say.  They’re just a bunch of astronomers and junk.  The Illinois senate knows what’s what and today it’s that Pluto is still a planet.

Like a team of left footed soccer players, Pluto was sent below the relegation line to dwarf planet status.  This, in turn, enraged the formerly apathetic masses who suddenly felt bad for Pluto and empathized with its sadness at relegation.

Luckily senators stand up for the down trodden.  Maybe next they can work on creating jobs in their state.

And how did it ever get to be called “thumbing your nose? which sounds horribly inappropriate.


Written by arnold

March 6, 2009 at 12:26 pm

Posted in News items

2 Responses

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  1. The Illinois legislature has way more sense than the International Astronomical Union has shown in two-and-a-half years. It’s the IAU who have acted like idiots, with one tiny group forcing a nonsensical planet definition on everyone. The truth is there is NO scientific consensus that Pluto is not a planet. The criterion requiring that a planet “clear the neighborhood of its orbit” is not only controversial; it’s so vague as to be meaningless. Only four percent of the IAU even voted on this, and the vote was driven by internal politics. A small group, most of whom are not planetary scientists, wanted to arbitrarily limit the number of planets to only the largest bodies in the solar system. They held their vote on the last day of a two-week conference with no absentee voting allowed. Their decision was immediately opposed by hundreds of professional astronomers in a formal petition led by Dr. Alan Stern, Principal Investigator of NASA’s New Horizons mission to Pluto.

    Stern and like-minded scientists favor a broader definition of planet that includes any non-self-luminous spheroidal body orbiting a star. The spherical part is key because when objects become large enough, they are shaped by gravity, which pulls them into a round shape, rather than by chemical bonds. This is true of planets and not of shapeless asteroids and comets. And yes, it does make Ceres, Eris, Haumea, and Makemake planets as well, for a total of 13 planets in our solar system.

    Even now, many astronomers and lay people are working to overturn the IAU demotion or are ignoring it altogether. Kudos to the Illinois Senate for standing up to this closed, out of touch organization whose leadership thinks they can just issue a decree and change reality.

    Laurel Kornfeld

    May 16, 2009 at 10:11 pm

  2. Maybe if the dwarf planet didn’t have such a cute name, people wouldn’t react so emotionally. We should call it by its formal designation: “134340.”

    There. Now no one will care that 134340 is way too small to be considered a planet.

    (And I love that the director of the mission to Pluto is heading up the argument about semantics. I bet he takes a huge pay cut once it’s determined that his mission is to a “dwarf planet” rather than an actual planet.)

    the kyle

    May 18, 2009 at 8:38 am

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