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Solar System To Have 12 Planets

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Feeling crowded? Scientists want to add 3 planets to our solar system

Last Updated Wed, 16 Aug 2006 07:42:14 EDT

The Associated Press


The universe really is expanding — astronomers are proposing to rewrite the textbooks to say our solar system has 12 planets, rather than the nine memorized by generations of schoolchildren.


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This photo illustration shows the largest known Kuiper Belt objects. Xena, at about 2,400 kilometres across, is slightly larger than Pluto, which is about 2,290 kilometres across. (AP Photo/NASA)


Much-maligned Pluto would remain a planet — and its largest moon plus two other heavenly bodies would join Earth's neighbourhood — under a draft resolution to be formally presented Wednesday to the International Astronomical Union, the arbiter of what is and isn't a planet.


"Yes, Virginia, Pluto is a planet," quipped Richard Binzel, a professor of planetary science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.


The proposal could change, however: Binzel and the other nearly 2,500 astronomers from 75 countries meeting in Prague to hammer out a universal definition of a planet will hold two brainstorming sessions before they vote on the resolution next week. But the draft comes from the IAU's executive committee, which only submits recommendations likely to gain two-thirds approval from the group.


Besides reaffirming the status of puny Pluto — whose detractors insist it shouldn't be a planet at all — the new lineup would include 2003 UB313, the farthest-known object in the solar system and nicknamed Xena; Pluto's largest moon, Charon; and the asteroid Ceres, which was a planet in the 1800s before it was demoted.


The panel also proposed a new category of planets called "plutons," referring to Pluto-like objects that reside in the Kuiper Belt, a mysterious, disc-shaped zone beyond Neptune containing thousands of comets and planetary objects. Pluto itself and two of the potential newcomers — Charon and 2003 UB313 — would be plutons.


Astronomers also were being asked to drop the term "minor planets," which long has been used to collectively describe asteroids, comets and other non-planetary objects. Instead, those would become collectively known as "small solar system bodies."


If the resolution is approved, the 12 planets in our solar system listed in order of their proximity to the sun would be Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Ceres, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto, Charon, and the provisionally named 2003 UB313. Its discoverer, Michael Brown of the California Institute of Technology, nicknamed it Xena after the warrior princess of TV fame but it likely would be rechristened something else later, the panel said.


The galactic shift would force publishers to update encyclopedias and school textbooks and elementary school teachers to rejig the planet mobiles hanging from classroom ceilings. Far outside the realm of science, astrologers accustomed to making predictions based on the classic nine might have to tweak their formulas.


Even if the list of planets is officially lengthened when astronomers vote Aug. 24, it's not likely to stay that way for long: The IAU has a "watchlist" of at least a dozen other potential candidates that could become planets once more is known about their sizes and orbits.


"The solar system is a middle-aged star and like all middle-aged things, its waistline is expanding," said Jack Horkheimer, director of the Miami Space Transit Planetarium in the United States and host of Public Broadcasting's Stargazer television show.


Opponents of Pluto, which was named a planet in 1930, still might spoil for a fight. Earth's moon is larger; so is 2003 UB313 (Xena), about 112 kilometres wider.


But the IAU said Pluto meets its proposed new definition of a planet: any round object larger than 800 kilometres in diameter that orbits the sun and has a mass roughly one-12,000th that of Earth. Moons and asteroids will make the grade if they meet those basic tests.


Roundness is key, experts said, because it indicates an object has enough self-gravity to pull itself into a spherical shape. Yet Earth's moon wouldn't qualify because the two bodies' common centre of gravity lies below the surface of the Earth.


"People were probably wondering: if they take away Pluto, is Rhode Island next?" Binzel quipped.


"There are as many opinions about Pluto as there are astronomers. But Pluto has gravity on its side. By the physics of our proposed definition, Pluto makes it by a long shot."


IAU president Ronald Ekers said the draft definition, two years in the making, was an attempt to reach a cosmic consensus and end decades of quarrelling.


"We don't want an American version, a European version and a Japanese version" of what constitutes a planet, he said.


Neil deGrasse Tyson, director of the Hayden Planetarium at New York City's American Museum of Natural History — miscast as a "Pluto-hater," he contends, merely because Pluto was excluded from a solar system exhibit — said the new guidelines would clear up the fuzzier aspects of the Milky Way.


"For the first time since ancient Greece, we have an unambiguous definition," he said.


"Now, when an object is debated as a possible planet, the answer can be swift and clear."


Source: http://forums.xisto.com/no_longer_exists/


Your comments?



Edited by xboxrulz (see edit history)

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Well it seems wierd how they were first wanting to take away pluto, and now they're adding planets. It all boils down to arbitrary definitions of what makes a planet. Very strange the way scientists' minds work, isn't it.

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Scientists are always changing facts as new evidence is discovered. So it's really hard to confirm if what is said to be true. And while this maybe a little off topic I always hoped they would investigate more closely on the life on other planets, because I know there has got to be life out there. We cant be the only ones that are roaming around in this universe. There has always been theories of little green men, known as aliens. But I really want to know for a "fact" that there are them out there or something that is out there that would be of a threat to us, other than a wannabie "hitler" or terrorist on our own planet.Many movies have been released thoeorizing these events, and I know there has to be some truth behind what is behind the theories. I also wanted to know since our resources on earth are slowly depleting will we soon need to travel to the next planet to find more resources? I heard rumors that we are trying to advance our exporation to be able to travel to Mars.I find that very interesting, and we are a step closer with the mini rovers exploring that region of the universe. The universe is a amazing place with vast amount of planets that no one knows anything specfifically. The most interesting thing is that we cannot be the only ones with technological advances, im wondering if other planets have their own type of technological advances like ours.As I am writing this post, all it reminds me of is Star wars, Star trek, and those a like that expands our curiousity of life outside of the world we are living in. In the future years coming, I am hoping the information that I am asking now will be answered in the upcoming years.

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I also find things like this very interesting, I was just pointing out that sometimes work is based on defining things only so they can be put into a nice little category, rather than finding out more.BTW your post was very deep :D

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I actually think it's a great step forward that scientist have finally defined what a planet is. Though, children will hate having to learn the um-teen number of planets extra they are eventully going to add to our solar system. But now, they will finally have a clear cut guideline, no debates and arguing. From what I read, there have been many debates going on in our solar system about Pluto.


And calling all those astroids and comets mini planets? I'm glad they are going to change that too. Although small solar system bodies is much longer to say, it at least is a little more accurate. Space research, I think, has come a long way, but it has also been slow going.


I agree that there must be more advance civilizations out there somewhere. I think we must somehow get out there, maybe not to meet those other civilizations yet, but to at least get to these other planets and research them. Valueble infomation could be gathered that we could use to help us in our space research, who knows.

We are not alone

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nice comments everyone, it was a great read...However, it only took me 2-3 minutes to memorize the solar system.Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Cereus, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto, Charon, and 2003 UB 313.xboxrulz

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I personally don't think that it's important to know these things. I mean, sure the astronomers need to know but it's not really vital information.We've gotten along fine for years without knowing what else hangs around us. :DI'm fine not worrying about any of it.

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In some ways I think it is really cool that they concider these umm "planets" part of our solar system, but if you think about it, it also seems very strange. From the beginning of time (for me at least lol since I was born) we have thought that there have always been 9 planets, so it will be strange to suddenly seeing textbooks saying we have 12 planets and what not. But I cant wait to see some nice pictures back from those planets! LETS FIND SOME LIFE PEOPLE! :D

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With 2003 UB 313 it's like they just gave up... haha. But I dunno, I like the Stephen Colbert response to this, adding new planets takes away from Earth's special planetness haha. But on a more serious note I think they SHOULD define what a planet is but that definitions shouldn't let things like comets become labeled as planets. But that's not for me to decide so I guess it's better then nothing either way.

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It's official, there are now 8 planets and 3 drawf planets


IAU 2006 General Assembly: Result of the IAU Resolution votes


24-August-2006, Prague: The first half of the Closing Ceremony of the 2006 International Astronomical Union (IAU) General Assembly has just concluded. The results of the Resolution votes are outlined here.


It is official: The 26th General Assembly for the International Astronomical Union was an astounding success! More than 2500 astronomers participated in six Symposia, 17 Joint Discussions, seven Special Sessions and four Special Sessions. New science results were vigorously discussed, new international collaborations were initiated, plans for future facilities put forward and much more.


In addition to all the exciting astronomy discussed at the General Assembly, six IAU Resolutions were also passed at the Closing Ceremony of the General Assembly:


1.Resolution 1 for GA-XXVI : “Precession Theory and Definition of the Ecliptic”

2.Resolution 2 for GA-XXVI: “Supplement to the IAU 2000 Resolutions on reference systems”

3.Resolution 3 for GA-XXVI: “Re-definition of Barycentric Dynamical Time, TDB”

4.Resolution 4 for GA-XXVI: “Endorsement of the Washington Charter for Communicating Astronomy with the Public”

5.Resolution 5A: “Definition of ‘planet’ ”

6.Resolution 6A: “Definition of Pluto-class objects”


The IAU members gathered at the 2006 General Assembly agreed that a “planet” is defined as a celestial body that (a) is in orbit around the Sun, (;) has sufficient mass for its self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces so that it assumes a hydrostatic equilibrium (nearly round) shape, and Š has cleared the neighbourhood around its orbit.


This means that the Solar System consists of eight “planets” Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. A new distinct class of objects called “dwarf planets” was also decided. It was agreed that “planets” and “dwarf planets” are two distinct classes of objects. The first members of the “dwarf planet” category are Ceres, Pluto and 2003 UB313 (temporary name). More “dwarf planets” are expected to be announced by the IAU in the coming months and years. Currently a dozen candidate “dwarf planets” are listed on IAU’s “dwarf planet” watchlist, which keeps changing as new objects are found and the physics of the existing candidates becomes better known.


The “dwarf planet” Pluto is recognised as an important proto-type of a new class of trans-Neptunian objects. The IAU will set up a process to name these objects.


Below are the planet definition Resolutions that were passed.


Notes for editors

A press conference about the Closing Ceremony of the General Assembly, including the results of the planet-definition vote, will be held at 18:00, in Meeting Room 3.3 of the Prague Congress Center. (It will NOT be possible for journalists to ring in to this conference: they must be there in person.)


The panel for the press conference will be:

Ron Ekers (outgoing IAU President)

Catherine Cesarsky (incoming IAU President, Member of the Planet Definition Committee)

Jan Palous (Chair of the National Organising Committee)

Richard Binzel (Member of the Planet Definition Committee)

Karel van der Hucht (incoming Secretary General)


This press conference will conclude around 18:30 CEST.


The IAU is the international astronomical organisation that brings together distinguished astronomers from all nations of the world. Its mission is to promote and safeguard the science of astronomy in all its aspects through international cooperation. Founded in 1919, the IAU is the world’s largest professional body for astronomers. The IAU General Assembly is held every three years and is one of the largest and most diverse meetings on the astronomical community’s calendar.



Following the vote, some of the members of the planet definition committee will be available for interviews (after the final vote):


Richard Binzel

Member of the Planet Definition Committee

Prague Conference Center, Meeting Room 3.1

Tel: +420-261-177-075

Cell: +420-776-806-297 (during the General Assembly)


Junichi Watanabe

Member of the Planet Definition Committee

Prague Conference Center, Meeting Room 3.3

Tel: +420-261-177-081

Cell: +420-776-806-265 (during the General Assembly)


Iwan Williams

President, IAU Division III Planetary Systems Sciences

Prague Conference Center, Meeting Room 244

Tel: +420-261-177-064

Cell: +420-776-175-769 (during the General Assembly)


Owen Gingerich

Chair of the IAU Planet Definition Committee

Tel: via the Press Room +420-261-177-075


Professor Ron Ekers

IAU President

Tel: via the Press Room +420-261-177-075


Catherine Cesarsky

IAU President-Elect and member of the Planet Definition Committee

Tel: via the Press Room +420-261-177-075


PIO contact

Lars Lindberg Christensen

IAU Press Officer

IAU GA 2006 Press office, Meeting Room 3.2

Prague Congress Center

Tel: +420-261-177-075/+420-261-222-130

Cellular: +49-173-3872-621

E-mail: lars@eso.org



Programme for the Closing Ceremony: http://forums.xisto.com/no_longer_exists/

Live public webcast of the Closing Ceremony: http://forums.xisto.com/no_longer_exists/

Live press webcast of the Closing Ceremony (press only, please do not distribute): http://forums.xisto.com/no_longer_exists/

The IAU Web page: http://www.iau.org/

IAU News during the 2006 General Assembly: http://realsweetshirts.com/index.php

IAU General Assembly: http://www.astronomy2006.com/

Free registration for the media: http://forums.xisto.com/no_longer_exists/



Resolution 5A is the principal definition for the IAU usage of “planet” and related terms.


Resolution 6A creates for IAU usage a new class of objects, for which Pluto is the prototype. The IAU will set up a process to name these objects.


IAU Resolution: Definition of a “Planet” in the Solar System

Contemporary observations are changing our understanding of planetary systems, and it is important that our nomenclature for objects reflect our current understanding. This applies, in particular, to the designation “planets”. The word “planet” originally described “wanderers” that were known only as moving lights in the sky. Recent discoveries lead us to create a new definition, which we can make using currently available scientific information.



The IAU therefore resolves that “planets” and other bodies in our Solar System be defined into three distinct categories in the following way:


(1) A “planet”1 is a celestial body that (a) is in orbit around the Sun, (:D has sufficient mass for its self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces so that it assumes a hydrostatic equilibrium (nearly round) shape, and Š has cleared the neighbourhood around its orbit.


(2) A “dwarf planet” is a celestial body that (a) is in orbit around the Sun, (:o has sufficient mass for its self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces so that it assumes a hydrostatic equilibrium (nearly round) shape2, Š has not cleared the neighbourhood around its orbit, and

(d) is not a satellite.


(3) All other objects3 except satellites orbiting the Sun shall be referred to collectively as “Small Solar-System Bodies”.


IAU Resolution: Pluto




The IAU further resolves:


Pluto is a “dwarf planet” by the above definition and is recognized as the prototype of a new category of trans-Neptunian objects.1



1 The eight planets are: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune.

2 An IAU process will be established to assign borderline objects into either dwarf planet and other categories.

3 These currently include most of the Solar System asteroids, most Trans-Neptunian Objects (TNOs), comets, and other small bodies.


Source: http://realsweetshirts.com/index.php


Your thoughts?



Edited by xboxrulz (see edit history)

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Leading astronomers declared Thursday that Pluto is no longer a planet under historic new guidelines that downsize the solar system from nine planets to eight.
After a tumultuous week of clashing over the essence of the cosmos, the International Astronomical Union stripped Pluto of the planetary status it has held since its discovery in 1930. The new definition of what is -- and isn't -- a planet fills a centuries-old black hole for scientists who have labored since Copernicus without one.

Although astronomers applauded after the vote, Jocelyn Bell Burnell -- a specialist in neutron stars from Northern Ireland who oversaw the proceedings -- urged those who might be "quite disappointed" to look on the bright side.

MORE HERE/SOURCE: http://forums.xisto.com/no_longer_exists/

Update the textbooks! This is very interesting. Based on some new "laws" for classifying a planet as a planet, Pluto doesn't make the mark... actually, it is VERY off!

What makes a planet a planet? This "rule" from the article defines a planet:
"a celestial body that is in orbit around the sun, has sufficient mass for its self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces so that it assumes a ... nearly round shape, and has cleared the neighborhood around its orbit."

The part that classifies Pluto as, IMO, a useless hunk of ice floating in outer space is "has cleared the neighborhood around its orbit." Since Pluto's orbit overlaps Neptune's, it isn't classified as a planet.

What do you guys think about this?


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