Monday, August 24, 2009

Pluto - Keep it a Planet

The Planets

As children, most of us grew up with the belief that there are nine planets in our solar system. I was taught a very cute mnemonic device (My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nine Pickles) to remember the names of the planets in the correct order (Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto) . Millions of solar system models have been made -- giving easy A's to kids around the world. Every primary science textbook and hard-bound encyclopedia shows these 9 planets surrounding our resplendent sun.

But in 2006, the dillweeds at the International Astronomical Union (IAU) voted that Pluto was not a planet. Only 4% of its members voted. In what other galaxy can only 4% of eligible voting members pass such a momentous decision. The world would be in utter ruin if only 4% of any given governing body could vote and pass their agenda. Granted, we'd all probably have a public health care option in the United States if this were the case, but there's a lot of bad stuff that could happen. (Don't want to speculate more on that scary possibility - i.e., a heck of a lot of reactionary bombs bursting in air scenarios.) But I digress.

According to A. Pawlowski at CNN, the Debate over the classification of Pluto as a Planet rages on. Kudos! There has been an online petition created so that we can all voice our opinions on the subject (which of course should be like my opinion).


  1. I agree, if only 4% are voting, then the whole thing should be tossed. It's a sad case of the vocal few trumping the quiet majority.

    That said, I do kind of agree with Pluto not being a planet. It's a little hard for me to say because I've actually got a connection to one of Pluto's discoverers through my 2nd Grade teacher. With that, I'm willing to give it a break, but with a proviso...

    Here's my take: Once upon a time, our solar system was notated as actually having HUNDREDS of planets, then we discovered that most of what we were identifying as 'planets' were just asteroids (the belt between Mars and Jupiter). Similarly, just a few years ago, a 'planet' called Quaoar was identified. However, it's not called a planet because it's part of the Kuiper Belt just beyond Pluto. Some could argue that Pluto is also part of the Kuiper belt, so along those lines, if we're going to keep the planetary status of Pluto, we've also got to give the title to Ceres. Ceres is the largest asteroid in the first belt, about half the size of Pluto.

    Let's also not forget the TNOs: . Some of these guys (namely Eris) are BIGGER than Pluto but aren't called planets. So, as it stands, with Pluto being a planet yet Eris and Ceres not, it IS a double-standard.

    So that's the proviso: if we're going to call Pluto a planet again, we need to scrap 'Dwarf Planet' and 'TNO' and be prepared for a solar system with planets in double-digits.

    That'll be one hell of a mnemonic....

  2. I cannot disagree with you there. Regardless of which definition they use of a planet, there will be changes to the 9-planet model of the solar system that I am comfortable with.

    I can see now why the people Galileo's time were reluctant to let go of their geocentric view of the universe. Who wants to admit that what they have believed to be true is wrong?

    All I know is that the decision would be more palatable if a majority of the people in the IAU would have voted in favor of the demotion. :)

    Thank you for such a long and wonderful response.