Pluto Has Been Outsourced

Pluto’s planet hood has always been belittled since the day it was discovered 76 years ago. On August 24th 2006 in Prague, Czech Republic, the International Astronomical Union (IAU), an assembly of 2,500 professional Astronomers from 75 countries, convened to debate the definition of a Planet. Their decision was years in the making with much fuss and banter between those Pro Pluto and Anti Pluto camps for some years. In the last day of the summit the 424 astronomers who decided to stick around, all voted on a drafted resolution proclaiming that any celestial body (from a gas giant to a huge rock) who opts for the celestial title must meet some basic requirements:

�It must be in orbit around the sun.
�It has a sufficient mass for its own gravity to overcome its natural composure and become a spheroid.
�It has cleared the neighborhood around its orbit.

Does this mean you can launch Louie Anderson into orbit between Earth and Venus and well soon have nine planets again? Perhaps. Yet the definition for a planet, of which there was previously none, has been questioned for several years ever since the discovery of the lauded “10th planet”, UB313, discovered in 1999, was pushing the boundaries of what most astronomers considered the rightful definition of a planet. Essentially their question was “If we can name this unknown ball of ice a planet then what cant we name as a planet?” The asteroid Ceres, which was once a planet but was demoted in the 1800’s, was being given consideration for the position again recently. Then when talk of naming Pluto’s moon, Charon, a planet, scientists world over put their foot down, the line had to be drawn somewhere. An agreement was made that we cannot have 11 planets. Giving planet status to the 2 considered originally would leave open the invitation for hundreds of more cold rocks in the solar system to be applying for planet hood. So the IAU also drafted another resolution, outlining criteria for a second class of celestial bodies.

These Dwarf/Minor planets are celestial bodies that:

�Must orbit the sun.
�Have a sufficient mass for its own gravity to overcome its natural composure and become a spheroid
�Has NOT cleared the neighborhood around its own orbit.
�Is NOT a satellite.

Now Pluto is automatically disqualified as a planet under these new guidelines and demoted to Dwarf/Minor Planet. Yes it does orbit the sun and is semi spherical in shape but it hasn’t cleared the neighborhood around its own orbit. It spends a part of its elliptical and highly erratic 248 year journey around the sun inside of Neptune’s orbit. So Pluto’s erratic behavior and lack of direction in life has cost it its title. Pluto has not only dropped off cosmic primetime lineup it will now take residence in the Dwarf Planet slot with dozens of others that fit into the category.

These new guidelines also disqualify Charon as a potential planet by nudging it into a default category. The “other” category of Solar system asteroids, most of the Trans Neptunian Objects, Comets and other small bodies which constitute the booby prize of celestial existence.

So what does the cost of this celestial downsizing do to the whole of humanity? Textbooks will have to be rewritten. new toys produced and the map of the solar system hanging up on my bedroom wall now has a big X drawn on Pluto. As well as the inevitable senile rants which the members of my generation will be giving to the youth of the world 60 years hence. I can see it now “You kids think you have it bad with 8 planets! In my day we had 9! And they didn’t even know what a planet really was!”

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