Wherein I argue emotionally about the definition of “planet”

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On August 24, the International Astronomical Union is going to vote on a proposal (here is the official resolution) to define the term “planet” such that Pluto stays in, and three bodies get added. This would require the re-writing of textbooks and make millions of first-graders learn 12 planets instead of nine. The planet status of Pluto has long provoked heated and fairly pointless and silly debate, much of it by people who are only vaguely familiar with astronomy but feel strongly about the definition of planet, a tradition which I fully intend to continue here.

At first I thought that the IAU proposal was to include Pluto, Xena (UB313), Sedna, and Quaoar as planets, perhaps getting the “ice dwarf” category. This was obviously the right thing to do, since rewriting textbooks is a good thing, and I think 21st-century first graders can handle it, and those various ice dwarves were probably tossed out of the inner solar system by other planets during the formation of the early solar system and so probably formed in a similar fashion originally. This also made for a nice symmetrical classification: 4 inner rocky planets, 4 outer gas giants, and 4 ice dwarf planets even further out. Everyone can remember that, even after we add more ice dwarf planets as we are likely to do.

But then I learned that the candidates for official planethood were not the above, but instead Pluto, Pluto’s moon Charon, Sedna, and the asteroid Ceres. Pluto and Sedna I can deal with, but Charon clearly belongs with the other two moons of Pluto. Pluto is 9 times more massive than Charon, we can’t let it schlepp itself up to planet status just because it happens to be just big enough to move the barycenter outside the surface of Pluto. If we go down this route, soon people will be calling the Earth-Moon system a double-planet – the earth-moon barycenter is a mere 1700 km below earth’s surface, after all.

And Ceres – I should say up front I’ve got nothing against Ceres, she’s a spunky little planetoid. And clearly we need to send a probe to get some decent pictures as soon as possible, because the Hubble shots are frustratingly fuzzy. And sure, she’s vaguely spherical. But c’mon, let’s get real. She’s less than 1000 km across. Heck, the great state of California is by itself 1,240 km long. If you get up early and take I-5 you can drive the whole thing by 9 pm. I know some people think California seems like it is its own planet already, but if we let Ceres in, we’ll have to let in Vesta, Pallas, and Hygiea, and while this would make another nice group of four, 16 is way too many for the first graders to learn. And Hygiea is only 300 x 500 km. I mean, Oregon is 420 x 580 km, and if we start calling Hygiea a planet pretty soon Oregon will want to be treated like California, or at least a moon of California. Clearly, it’s a slippery slope, and that way lies chaos.

It looks like I’m taking on consensus of the astronomers over 2 years of debates, so maybe I’m off my rocker. Are they right? Have at it in the comments.

(Note: any similarities between this post and a Stephen Colbert report are purely accidental.)

110 Comments

Best post yet. Not that I necessarily agree, but it’s hilarious.

Plutophants in Disarray

I’ll say one thing: Not having a coherent scientific theory can lead to factionalization.

Strains appeared today among the Plutophants, as many among their number were dismayed by the latest IAU attempt to keep Pluto a planet. The new transparently plutophantic scheme involved no less than four categories of planets:

1. Terrestrial 2. Gas Giant 3. Dwarf Non-Pluton (a special class for Ceres, formerly an asteroid) 4. Dwarf Pluton (for literally dozens of ice dwarfs)

Or something like that. No one’s really sure if you have to say “dwarf pluton,” or whether all plutons are automatically dwarfs, or whatever.

Appropriately, those of us following the Pluto issue have also spilt into four categories, the Pluto-haytas (who will win) and three groups of fractured plutophants.

For those of you following at home, here’s a quick rundown:

1. The No Iceball Left Behind Group

The NILBies are the bunch who officially won today. They produced the bizarre scheme above, following the philosophy that planet-ness is primarily all about roundness. Asteroids, ice balls, whatever—if it’s big enough for its own gravity to squish it into a sphere, but not so big it undergoes fusion (becoming a sun), and it’s not a moon, it’s a planet.

Many Plutophants were happy at first, because this means that Pluto and UB313 are definitely planets. But soon the scales fell from their eyes, and they realized that the NILBie victory spells doom to Pluto in the long run.

Why? Because it means scores of trans-Neptunian planets will appear almost instantly. Like a sweaty Joe McCarthy, the IAU brandished a lit of 43 known plutons, and admitted they have a secret list of dozens more.

This is your solar system:

This is your solar system on NILBie:

Hmm.

Of course, not all Plutophants want the nonsensical scribbles above, which brings me to:

2. The Culture Vultures

The Vultures are a hardy band of simple folk who believe that the mnemonics of their childhood are in fact the laws of the universe. Oh, sure, they make claims about “planets” being a “cultural” term, because, you know, science changes, but culture has always been the same.

The Vultures are sort of like those people who think that popular music was perfected while they were in high school, and wonder why all these new bands even exist.

So Pluto will never change in their lifetime, anymore than Supertramp can ever be replaced.

They’re happy with the current mess, thinking that as the clearly insane NILBies inflate the term “planet” to meaninglessness, the rest of culture will fearfully retreat to the warm glowing warmth of the “nine historical planets.”

That’s their new buzzword, “Nine historical planets.”

Because, like, history stops in 2006?

The Vultures seem to forget that our culture: Once called the sun and moon “planets”; Once called whales “fish” (see the King James and Moby Dick); Once used the word “animal” to refer solely to non-human animals.

In all of these cases, the scientific usage ultimately won. Maybe people sometimes say, “Delta doesn’t allow animals onboard.” But asked to define animal, they’ll admit to the scientific definition after a moment’s thought. And anyone who says that whales are fish, or the sun a planet, is pretty quickly shouted down.

If scientists start saying “eight planets” a lot, so will the rest of us. We listen to scientists, at least when it comes to stuff like planets. That’s part of our, you know, culture.

More on that later. Because here’s our final Plutophantic faction:

3. The UB313 Guy

This is a faction of one: Mike Brown.

He’s one of the guys who discovered UB313, which will be made a planet under the new NILBie scheme. But he realizes all too well that his discovery will be made much less interesting, given that 50-something other planets will appear with the same stroke of the pen. (He coined the “No Iceball Left Behind” slur.)

In the NY Times today, he freely admits that eight planets is the logical scientific number. But then he rhapsodizes a bit about the Culture Vulture argument, with one slight change …

He thinks UB313 should be a planet, too.

I’m biased, but I like to imagine this question through the eyes of the child I was in the 1970’s … If I had heard back then about the discovery of something at the edge of the solar system, I wouldn’t have waited for a body of astronomers to tell me what it was. I would have immediately cut out a little disk of white paper and taped it to the poster of planets on my bedroom wall. That night, I would have looked up, straining to see the latest addition to our solar system, hoping that I, too, might someday find a new planet.

I hope the union … simply declares 2003 UB313 our 10th, full-fledged planet. Doing so might convince schoolchildren to put new paper disks on their walls, to look up to the sky and realize that exploration does continue, and that they can be part of it, too.

Well, except they can’t, Mike, because it’s pretty much all iceballs from here on out.*

But at least your iceball wouldn’t be left behind.

Which brings us to …

4. The Pluto-Haytas

So while the Plutophants are crumbling into disarray, what does head Pluto-hayta Neil deGrasse Tyson have to say?

“A Plutophile is well served by this definition,” he said. “It is one of the few that allow you to utter Pluto and Jupiter in the same breath.”

Diss!

Dissing aside, though, here’s my new plan: Let’s get rid of Pluto by whatever means necessary. It’s a friggin’ iceball, okay? Let’s keep saying “eight classic planets” until everyone drops the “classic.”

But before we define the word “planet” for all times and all places, why not wait until we have observed ten or so other solar systems in their entirety? Out there in the rest of the galaxy, there may be all kinds of crazy stuff:

Multiple accretion disks! Ice-worlds big enough to impress even me! Objects that aren’t round, but are still totally planets! Captured rogue gas giants with wacky orbits!

We just don’t know yet. And we don’t want to wind up like the ancients who thought the sun was a planet, until they figured out that we went around it. And we don’t want to wind up with a bunch of lame iceballs lumped in with the cool stuff, just because of the pathetic Plutophants.

This ain’t about your bedroom walls, kiddies, it’s about the universe. So let’s get some more of the universe under our belts before making final judgements.

So Pluto’s not a planet. It’s an iceball. Deal.

I agree totally. The best solution would be to demote Pluto from planethood to a Kuiper Belt object.

When I taught writing, I used to give an exercise requiring students to define (in their own words) various common nouns. The toughest one was ‘planet.’ One problem with the astronomers’ definition that I don’t think anyone has mentioned (but it came up in student essays) is that the definition needs to distinguish between actual planets and quasi-planetary objects in other solar systems. Do single-star planetary systems follow the Sol pattern of small inner planets, gas giants, and Kuiper Belt—type objects? When I was younger and paid more attention to astronomy, the speculation was that Kuiper Belt objects would continue to the next solar system and could be stepping stones to traveling to Barnard’s Star or the Alpha Centauri system, i.e., some objects in between systems would be ambiguous as to which star they belonged to. Has that turned out to be the case? I have no idea but if so the region beyond Pluto should not be populated with planets, but some other class of object.

BTW, Isaac Asimov wrote a book about the Earth-Moon system called The Double Planet, so it’s not at all a new proposal.

www.corneroak.com

I agree totally. The best solution would be to demote Pluto from planethood to a Kuiper Belt object.

When I taught writing, I used to give an exercise requiring students to define (in their own words) various common nouns. The toughest one was ‘planet.’ One problem with the astronomers’ definition that I don’t think anyone has mentioned (but it came up in student essays) is that the definition needs to distinguish between actual planets and quasi-planetary objects in other solar systems. Do single-star planetary systems follow the Sol pattern of small inner planets, gas giants, and Kuiper Belt—type objects? When I was younger and paid more attention to astronomy, the speculation was that Kuiper Belt objects would continue to the next solar system and could be stepping stones to traveling to Barnard’s Star or the Alpha Centauri system, i.e., some objects in between systems would be ambiguous as to which star they belonged to. Has that turned out to be the case? I have no idea but if so the region beyond Pluto should not be populated with planets, but some other class of object.

BTW, Isaac Asimov wrote a book about the Earth-Moon system called The Double Planet, so it’s not at all a new proposal.

www.corneroak.com

Let’s ask the geocentrists what THEY think.

Ghosty … ?

(snicker)

The proper way to handle this has nothing to do with rigid definitions. Instead, I propose the “Shotgun!” system of classification.

It works a lot like the system for deciding who gets to sit in the front passenger seat of the same name. When an astronomer spots a planet through his telescope, he screams out “I call planet!” if he wishes it to be classified as a planet, “I call asteroid!” for asteroids, and so forth for any object he wants it to be.

These classifications are binding forever until a human lands on the body in question. Whoever lands there gets to override the astronomer if he wishes.

In the event that the astronomer fails to make a call upon discovery, anyone who the astronomer informs may steal the call, and so forth as knowledge spreads. The same applies to the landing rule: if the first guy down doesn’t call it, as soon as the second guy makes a footprint, he gets to call it.

I can see no downsides to this system.

Here’s a good one:

# justawriter Says: August 16th, 2006 at 2:35 pm

Actually, an honest species would say that this system had only four planets, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune, and there are a bunch of little turds floating around that are considered important by the fleas living on the third turd.

More news:

Dover, DE (FP)

In a surprise move, lawers at Cheatem and Bilkem have filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of the Moon, Titan, Ganymede, Callisto, Io, Europa, Triton, Rhea, Iapetus, Dione, Tethys, Tritania, Oberon, Umbriel and Ariel at the International Court in The Hague.

“Our clients are being denied their rightful billing as planets,” said lead counsel Richard Visage, “and unfair billing is being distributed to smaller, insignificant objects in the outer rim.” It is believed that the plaintiffs are seeking status and punitive damages from the IAU.

When interviewed for comment, Mercury had this to say, “I don’t know what they’re on about. I’ve been a planet for a long time and it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. They named me after a naked man with wings on his feet… how do you live that down? Pass the sun screen please.” Uranus added, “Feh. Listen to Mercury… like he has it bad in the name department.”

Ceres, traditionally quiet on the whole planet issue was more direct “4.5 billion years I floated out here, minding my own business. This lot, these ‘moons’ *HAD* to go float around Jupiter and Saturn or that icky Earth. Oh they were so cool back then. Now they’re ticked because they can’t be planets. They can kiss my asteroids. Patience paid off and I’m a planet now, so those bunch of moon rocks can go [expletive]. I made the big leagues and they’re just jealous. Here’s a moon for ‘em” [photo redacted]

Most of the plaintiffs were unreachable, but Io was adamant, “I got stuck here in the early days. I’ve been erupting crap for billions of years trying to blow this popsicle stand. Look, if that fat yellow blob in the middle didn’t hog up all the mass when we were young, I might be orbiting a star in my own right. I’m bigger and sexier than Pluto and Quaor. People look at me all the time, nobody sees those other two. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to have an eruption.”

Lawyers for the IAU have not had time to review the court filing and had no comment at this time.

There’s another major issue to deal with. People who study planets are often called “extraterrestrial geologists” or “exogeologists”, or some such.

Well.… terrestrial geologists already have a use for the term “pluton” - it’s an intrusive igneous body, meaning that it’s a body of magma that never reached the surface of the Earth, and cooled off inside the Earth to form an igneous rock. The Rocky Mountains are composed of plutons. Stone Mountain in Georgia is a pluton. Heck, Devil’s Tower (of Close Encounters of the Third Kind fame) is a pluton. There are many, many, many plutons within the Earth and exposed by erosion at its surface.

Can you imagine the confusion?

In zoology and botany, if an organism’s name has been used once, it can’t be used again. I think we have to do the same in this case.

Best argument for the ice-dwarf category yet: http://scottwesterfeld.com/blog/?p=161#comments

Why would Pluto want to be a planet?

As a planet, it’s a tiny little, out-of-whack runt! As a Kuiper Belt Object, it’s a rocking big heavyweight bruiser. Okay, not quite as big as UB313, but it’s got more moons!

So as a matter of common decency, we should realize that Pluto would rather rule in the icy reaches of the Kuiper Belt than be subject to mockery in the warm glowing warmth of the inner solar system. It’s named after the god of the underworld, after all.

Lindsey Eck wrote:

I agree totally. The best solution would be to demote Pluto from planethood to a Kuiper Belt object.

Well, if you got a giant pool cue and knocked Pluto towards the sun it would most probably give you a comet’s tail as it warmed up. So, it might be a comet on the inner most edge of the Oort cloud.

However, I would counter your argument with the “death threat from a third-grader argument.” When the Hayden Planetarium eliminated Pluto from its planet display the astronomer in charge got death threats from third-graders. When third-graders send letters to astronomers demanding that Pluto remain a planet – it should remain a planet.

What about the children?

the whole point is that planet is not a scientifically useful category. it means something like “big local objects discovered before really good telescopes”, and we group the names for the same reason we group the names of 1954 academy award winners. hence, planets should retain pluto, while more precise categories are used for scientific purposes. in the latter case, membership will vary according to well defined rules, and precisely none of the general public who date will know or care about those memberships

If we go down this route, soon people will be calling the Earth-Moon system a double-planet — the earth-moon barycenter is a mere 1700 km below earth’s surface, after all.

But… You mean the Moon isn’t Earth’s sister world? That it’s not a double-planet system?

No, sorry, I’ve believed it is for… I forget how long, but a substantial part of my life anyway. It will take an awful lot to convince me otherwise.

What do we expect when a definition is so loaded yet unimportant that it is decided by committee instead of practice?

Pretty much what happened here: - Inclusive definition. - Some terms not currently welldefined.

I’m surprised they managed to find objective and welldefined criteria for planet and double planet both.

Okay, so the earth-moon system may eventually become a double planet instead, and caught or ejected planets will get or loose planet status. It is all contingent now. And so is the heliocentric ordering of the Neptune-Pluto-Charon bodies. It would have been easier if those suckers where nailed down! Who ordered them anyway?

And I had thought that the debates about phylocode and rank-free taxonomy were exhausting!

Heck, the great state of California is by itself 1,240 km long.

I’ve often thought that CA should be classified as a planet, in and of itself.

…and of course why does this discussion sound so similar to the discussions over “kinds” the creobots inevitably bring up?

The solution, of course, is to get the congresscritters to pass a “No Planet Left Behind” act, ensuring equal treatment of gas bags, dirt balls, and ice cubes.

brilliant!

and of course we will have to implement standardized “planet testing”, in order to make sure all potential planetoids fulfill requirements.

Yes well I don’t believe in planets, they’re just made up by a bunch of baby eating, godless and elitest scientists who want to impose a bunch of useless facts on our children.

If they get away with it, my children won’t go to heaven, which if you believe scientists, is filled with gas giants, ice thingy’s, dust and rocks , come on, you know it’s not true, you can feel it.

AND Pluto isn’t in the good book, so it just CAN’T be there.

AND Pluto isn’t in the good book, so it just CAN’T be there.

Some translations of the good book uses “Hades”. So technically, Pluto is in the good book. But the real Pluto cannot hold all the sinners of human history.

I have a better solution.

Pluto should not be declared a planet, except on weekends.

On weekends, Pluto should be considered a planet.

The other planets must continue to chuck matter at Pluto at regular times so that Pluto would have a good chance to develop into a planet.

Planets, especially Neptune, must remain at least a gazillion kilometres from Pluto.

The more I think about this proposed definition, the more I like it.

What is really exciting about planets these days is that we keep finding them around other stars. This means we need a nice clear simple definition, that can be applied in many contexts. This is what the IAU is proposing to give us.

So what if Pluto is an ice-ball. Why should that rule it out? As for calling it a Kuiper belt object… so it is; but the Kuiper belt is a local solar system structure. Other stars have similar belts; but the structure of belts in other stars is going to vary a lot, and will depend on what other planets there are to push and pull on smaller planets. Kuiper belt is not a quality that can be used to distiguish planets and other bodies, because we can’t apply it consistently for other systems.

The definition they have given is beautifully elegant. It’s not a case of some arbitrary number chosen on permissible size, location, eccentricity or whatever. They don’t give a number, but a quality. It’s big enough for the surface to be defined by gravitational equilibrium. Now this is not perfect; it allows for a grey area as the shape is more and more constrained. But it is way better than just taking a number out of a hat; it is trying to identify a quality that transposes easily to other contexts.

And the asteroid Ceres is to be a planet! Great! I see this as an injustice rectified at last. I like it that we recognize this small world in the inner solar system. It’s not devaluing the big guys… it’s acknowledging one of the little guys, which even so all on its own accounts for about a third of the mass of the asteroid belt. I’d love to visit there one day – and I hope with it will get increased recognition for that rather interesting part of our solar system.

Charon is a planet! How cool is that!? We have a binary planet in the solar system. It’s been spoken of as such before this, but now this can become official, and we know what it means to say it is a binary planet. And if anyone else wants to find another binary planet, they know just what to look for.

It also opens the way for new discoveries. It’s a good thing that we don’t know how many planets there are in our solar system. It leaves open the way to search and find more worlds, and honour those who find them as discoverers of planets.

This is an excellent proposal.

Cheers – Chris

I’ve got to agree with Nick on at least one point: Including Charon as a planet is bizarre, especially if Xena, Sedna, and Quaoar are excluded. I like the new IAU definition of planet, and am baffled as to how they can come up with such an elegant and useful definition of ‘planet’, and then catastrophically flub the application of it in the same stroke! Okay, okay - so the baricenter of the Pluto-Charon system is above the surface of Pluto - but is that really such a good definition of ‘Double Planet’? Consider the gas giants - where are their ‘surfaces’? Or objects with variable sizes or densities - if, when Plutos atmosphere freezes, the baricenter then falls below Pluto’s new surface, is Charon somehow less of a planet?

I like the definition of planet: Not a star. Orbit a star. Gravity strong enough to approximately sphericalize (is that a word?) itself.

But allow me to propose a new way to look at the definition of ‘double planet’ - the baricenter of the system should be close to the midpoint between the centers of mass of the bodies involved. What is ‘close’? I’m flexible - but right now I’d be amenable to the middle one third of the distance between centers of mass. Gotta admit, I’m kinda thinkin’ about the Roche limit & Roche sphere here.…

So Terra-Luna? Not a double planet; the baricenter would have to about ~128000 km closer to Luna. Pluto-Charon? Again no, the baricenter needs to be ~5000 km closer to Charon.

And one more thought: we already know of dozens of extrasolar planets, soon we may know of hundreds, and one day I hope we will know of (and visit) millions. So, why the planet-o-phobia? Why is ten planets too many? Or nine? Or fifty? What is the rationale behind the ‘our system shoud have a single digit numer of planets’ chauvenism? I don’t get it.

(*Shrug*) I am not an astronomer, nor do I play one on TV. Just my $0.02 worth.

I suppose if the larger satellites like Titan, Europa, Io, or Tritan for example, where orbiting the sun then they too would have been classed as planets ? I also remember Carl Sagen once saying that Jupiter was in fact a failed star. Obviously the line between planets and stars is also blured.

The young Earth creationist groups such as AIG still deny the existence of both the Kuiper belt and Oort cloud as sources for short and long period commets and, for some strange reason, persist with the “commets break up too quickly” claim. I can’t understand why they haven’t dropped this one since, in the light of recent discoveries, it has surely been shown to be nonsense.

Anyway, heres a site on planets you folks might enjoy:

http://www.nineplanets.org/hypo.html

For the definitive word, we must get the testimony of Michael Behe–will the new existence of plutons affect the scientificiness of astrology? We must also ask ourselves what the Designer had in mind when he created these ambiguous objects. Then we must answer our own question, the Designer is inscrutable and anyway might be an alien from the pluton Pluto.

I recall talk some years ago about Earth gaining a second moon, as the orbit of one of the asteroids brought it into control by Earth’s gravity. I thought that asteroid was Ceres. Can anybody clue me in on that?

O.K. O.K. so just lets redefine everything so it fits everyones pre-conceived notions.… fine by me.

I’m not big headed enough to insist MY definition should be accepted by all…just one small..o.k. BIG request .……the next planet be named after me.

Planet k.e.

I was going to be magnanimous and allow it to be named planet Dembski.…but since he is going to be buried in Westminster Abbey next to Charles Darwin with a cardboard cut out replica of the Nobel prize for something or other, I figure he has enough recognition already

Maybe we just need to establish two criteria for planets; as long as one is met, the circumsolar object in question is a planet.

1) The object is visible from Earth with the naked eye. Thus Mercury, Venus, Earth, Luna, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn qualify as planets. But:

2) The object has a satellite of its own. Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto thus qualify as planets (and all of the above except Mercury & Venus doubly qualify), while Luna, Ceres, various iceballs, comets, and asteroids don’t.

Yes, they’re arbitrary criteria, and yes, Pluto wouldn’t have qualified as a planet until Charon’s discovery, but hey, it keeps the total well within the grasp of first-graders.

1) The object is visible from Earth with the naked eye. Thus Mercury, Venus, Earth, Luna, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn qualify as planets.

As does Vesta. But not Ceres. Still want to go this route?

Roy

Well, “gravitational dominance” would be better than “cleared his neighbourhood”. Why? 1. Sounds nice. Like SF. Or something like that. 2. Clears his neighbourhood, too. 3. And no one will doubts that these bodies whom survive clearing ARE graviationally dominated by body in question. These bodies will be called “rings”, “moons”, “asteroids in L4 and L5”, or simply “co-orbitals”.

Todays definition only give ammo for proplutonists.

SciFi slogans that might be bent to apply to this “gravitational dominance” context:

Planet-wannabe to spheroidal objects it is evicting: There can be only one!

Planet-wannabe to spheroidal objects it is converting to satellites: Resistance is futile!

Unsuccessfully-evicted spheroidal object to planet-wannbe: I’m ba-a-a-ack!

…there must be more. Help me out here!

Object being converted to moon or thrown out of orbit on facing the planet:

“The Force is strong with this one!”

Yeah, now we got it goin’ on!

I’m trying to come up with one from the “Kung Fu” TV show. Or even from Samuel L’s fisking of “Kung Fu” in Pulp Fiction…

it was a way to remember the values of the different colored stripes on electrical capacitors…

better make that resistors.

http://www.elexp.com/t_resist.htm

Black = 0 Brown = 1 Rred = 2 Orange = 3 Yellow = 4 Green = 5 Blue = 6 Violet = 7 Gives = 8 White = 9

Re “…there must be more. Help me out here!”

I’m the chosen one, and you’re dusted!

Incoming asteroid to planet-wannabe:

“Assimilate this!”

They will be classified according to standard Imperial er… standards!

“FEAR will keep the local systems in line!”

Or maybe: “This bickering is pointless!”

:-/

I just gotta get a few more of these, er, out of my system:

Planet-wannabe, to incoming impactor: “Go ahead, make my day.”

Planet-wannabe to competing spheroidals: “I vant to be alone.”

Planet-wannabe, musing over options for evicting debris: “Shaken, not stirred.”

Planet-wannabe, to spheroid in process of being evicted: Hasta la vista, baby!”

Pluto, sniffing: “I coulda been a contender!”

Neptune, pompously, to Pluto: “It’s better to be looked over than overlooked.”

One planet-wannabe to fellow planets, regarding a spheroid in need of eviction: “Excuse me while I whip this out…”

Omniscient–but not necessarily intelligent–observer remarking upon spheroid-wannabes going through process of gravitational collapse: “Round up the usual suspects.”

Gravitationally-stressed satellite to massive planet: “You’re tearing me up!”

IAU, to Pluto: “It’s a hard world for little things.”

Ah, back to the Empire again, eh? In that case, I leave it to the audience to place these final few lines (I promise!) in the “mouths” of the appropriate celestial bodies:

“I have a bad feeling about this.”

“Try not. Do, or do not. There is no try.”

That’s no moon!”

The backlash is kind of dumb. The issue of Neptune, IMO, is a red herring. The point about “clearing the orbit” is that, like Ceres, Pluto occupies a “belt” containing other similarly composed and shaped objects.

The same is not true of any of the eight “official planets. While their orbits may be cluttered up with post-accretion detritus, they are all by many orders of magnitude the largest spherical objects to be found.

Pluto isn’t even the largest Kuiper belt object.

fnxtr‘s link is pretty cute stuff–the Seven Dwarfs have got fellow Disney-toon Pluto’s back:

Although we think it’s Dopey that Pluto has been downgraded to a dwarf planet, which has made some people Grumpy and others just Sleepy, we are not Bashful in saying we would be Happy if Disney’s Pluto would join us as an eighth dwarf. We think this is just what the Doc ordered and is nothing to Sneeze at!

better make that resistors.

Well, that’s why I got a “C” in physics.

;)

better make that resistors.

Well, that’s why I got a “C” in physics.

;)

Cause resistors were futile?

Henry

The object formerly informally known as Xena is now formally named Eris.

Henry

The object formerly informally known as Xena is now formally named Eris.

Henry

The object formerly informally known as Xena is now formally named Eris.

Henry

This is true.

“Xena” was better IMO…besides, there can’t be many more real mythological Greek and Latin figures left. Pretty soon they will have to start using TV characters. I am waiting for the Trek system where they name the extrasolar planets Kirk, Spock, McCoy, etc. I half-recall that this has already happened in fiction somewhere.

Another article on Eris and its moon Dysnomia:

The Dwarf Planet Formerly Known as Xena Has Officially Been Named Eris, IAU Announces

PASADENA, Calif.–The International Astronomical Union (IAU) today announced that the dwarf planet known as Xena since its 2005 discovery has been named Eris, after the Greek goddess of discord.

Eris’s moon will be known as Dysnomia, the demon goddess of lawlessness and the daughter of Eris.

Henry

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This page contains a single entry by Nick Matzke published on August 16, 2006 2:39 PM.

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