Sunday, August 13, 2006

KO'd By The KBOs Or Aren't Eight Planets Enough?

Reports are that the panel of scientists meeting to decide what's a planet and what isn't may let Pluto remain one. (Here.) The scientists are mum on their agreed definition but apparently some favor this:
"Some panel members say they favor counting any object which is large enough that its gravity has made it round. If the object is spinning, a small bulge would be tolerated. "We're talking about no more than four or five new planets," says Iwan Williams.

Small potato-shaped asteroids wouldn't make the cut. But Ceres, a big round asteroid between Mars and Jupiter, might qualify. (Here.)"
Actually, astronomer Michael Brown suggests on his website that if a planet is defined as any object made round by its own gravity, the Sun could go from having 9 planets to at least 53. (Here.)

If you were in space you wouldn't hear them, but those screams you hear on Earth are science teachers and astronomy students everywhere.

Here are the names of some larger Kuiper Belt Objects to get you started on your memorization: Orcus, Varuna, Quaoar, Sedna, Ixion, and Huya (apparently, the US Marines have their own planet way out there in the Kuiper Belt). The other KBOs don't have names yet; just a series of numbers and letters like, 2003UB313 and 2005RM43. (See Brown's handy chart here. Be sure to look at the scribbled mess that 53 orbits makes of the map of our solar system compared to the beautiful 9 orbits we have today.)


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And let's not forget Easter Bunny (2005 FY9), and Santa (2003 EL61) with its attendant moon Rudolph (its second moon remains unnamed).

IMHO, Pluto should remain a planet (grandfather clause).
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