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Kim Falconer

 

 

 

On August 24, 2006 astronomers in Prague voted to demote Pluto from its planetary status to that of ‘dwarf planet’. This left our solar system with 8 official worlds—Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune.  Earlier in the month, the IAU- International Astronomical Union - tabled a proposal that would have seen many more solar system bodies, including Pluto and the newly discovered Eris or UB131 found in 2003 by Professor Michael Brown from the California Institute of Technology, elevated to planet status.

 

The initial criterion was simple. They had to be orbiting our sun, and they had to be round. If the first proposal passed, we would ‘go from 9 official planets to 53 immediately. (Brown, 2006)

 

old orbits

But that proposal failed and in its place is one that demotes Pluto to dwarf planet status. The current criteria states that not only must a planet be round and orbiting the sun, it must ‘clear the neighbourhood around its orbit.’ Pluto did not meet this new definition though technically neather does the Earth. 

  

 

(Image Brown, n.d.a.)

Almost a year later, the debate still continues. Members of the space science community suggest there were serious technical and pedagogical flaws in the IAU’s definition of planets and are mounting a protest. The CSEPR, Center for Space Exploration Policy Research, has stated:

 

Asteroid orbits

“We, as planetary scientists and astronomers, do not agree with the IAU’s definition of a planet, nor will we use it.”

The IAU isn't scheduled to meet again until 2009 and in the meantime astronomers are coming up with yet another definition of "planet"—one that is aimed to restore Pluto's status. A primary effort is being led by Mark Sykes, director of the Planetary Science Institute, in Tucson, and Alan Stern, principal investigator of the New Horizons space-probe mission, scheduled to arrive at Pluto in 2015. (Image Brown, n.d.a.)


The IAU isn't scheduled to meet again until 2009
and in the meantime astronomers are coming up with yet another definition of "planet"—one that is aimed to restore Pluto's status. A primary effort is being led by Mark Sykes, director of the Planetary Science Institute, in Tucson, and Alan Stern, principal investigator of the New Horizons space-probe mission, scheduled to arrive at Pluto in 2015.

 

"The IAU definition is so flawed on so many levels," says Stern, whose Web site still defiantly calls Pluto the last planet, "that some of us decided we can't wait three years to come up with a better one."

 

‘Some of us’ now amounts to more astronomers than the 'less than half the membership' of the IAU who voted on Pluto’s demotion in 2006. But isn’t this just a matter of, ‘a rose by any other name’? Public opinion suggests not. Pluto has captured the imagination of the collective since it was discovered in 1930—an ‘accidental’ event based on incorrect calculations from a theory that proved wrong. Yet Pluto was found, and like the god of the underworld for which it was named, Pluto draws us into its mystery, refusing to succumb.

 

Cast your vote for or against. Sign the Pluto Petition HERE

 

What will ASTROLOGERS do now that Pluto isn't a 'Planet'.

 

Janet Kane, Jungian Psychologist and Astrologer, says " The astronomical definition of the objects in space does not affect the practice of astrology."

 

I agree with her, though I feel our collective approach to Pluto's status might say something about our approach to the unconscious and the deeper undercurrents of the psyche.

 

British Astrologer and Best selling author Russell Grant stated, we already use bodies that aren't 'planets'-- the sun, moon, Chiron and various asteroids. Read the interview here. . .

 

Leaders of the American Federation of Astrologers and The Astrological Association of Great Britain, are standing by Pluto. Article in Nation & World

 

References: 

 Adler, J. (2006) Plotting Pluto’s Comeback. Newsweek 
	Technology & Science. [online Version] 
	Retrieved July 8, 2007 from
    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/15460884/site/newsweek

Astronomers Fight to Restore Pluto’s Planetary Status. 2006) 
    ABC Online. Retrieved July 9, 2007 from
	http://www.abc.net.au/news/newsitems/200609/s1731323.htm

Brown, M. E. (n.d.a.). Dwarf Planet Page. Retrieved July 8, 2007 from
	 http://www.gps.caltech.edu/~mbrown/dwarfplanets/

Brown, M. E. (n.d.b.). Discovery of 2003UB131, the 10th Planet. 
	Retrieved July 8, 2006 from 
	http://www.gps.caltech.edu/~mbrown/planetlila/index.html