Poor Pluto!

by Vinaya HS on August 25, 2006

in General Stuff,The Mumbai Blog

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It’s time to forget what they taught you in school about the solar system–it no longer has 9 planets. After years of controversy, Pluto has officially been stripped of it’s planetary status. It’s now officially a Dwarf Planet. The confusion arose because all these years the international astronomical community had no formal definition of what constitutes a planet! The solar system almost ended up with 12 planets, the new contenders being the asteroid Ceres, Pluto’s moon Charon, and a distant object called 2003 UB313.

So, what’s a planet and what’s a dwarf planet?

[Excerpt from The Knowledge News]

“Planets” Rule Their Space

According to the new definition, approved by the International Astronomical Union (IAU), a planet in our solar system is a celestial body that meets three criteria:

  1. It orbits the sun.
  2. It’s round. More technically, it “has sufficient mass for its self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces so that it assumes a hydrostatic equilibrium (nearly round) shape.”
  3. It “has cleared the neighborhood around its orbit.” Basically, it dominates its part of space.

That last criterion revokes Pluto’s planetary license–little Pluto doesn’t dominate anything. The only planets are Mercury (the smallest), Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune.

“Dwarfs” Don’t Rule Their Space

So what’s Pluto? The IAU has ruled that it’s a “dwarf planet.” According to the IAU, a dwarf planet in our solar system is a celestial body that meets four criteria:

  1. It orbits the sun.
  2. It’s round. (Same as above.)
  3. It’s not a satellite.
  4. It has not “cleared the neighborhood around its orbit.”

Under this definition, Ceres and 2003 UB313 are “dwarf planets,” too. Charon, which was slated for promotion from “Pluto’s largest moon” to “planet” will apparently have to rest content with its former title. (The rejected proposal would have revised the definition of “satellite” and made Pluto and Charon a “double planet,” since they orbit each other.)

I wonder how current literature and more important, school textbooks, will be updated.




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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Goutham August 25, 2006 at 3:07 PM

Good set of details collected. I read this today morning in the papers…..felt very sad for dear Pluto. While memorizing the names of planets in my school, the one name that I never used to forget was PLUTO.

Why doesn’t somebody define what is a HUMAN. Most of them will be ripped off their status, they do not clear the space around them.

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