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Pluto and its biggest moon, Charon  (Source: NASA)
Pluto gets new classification: Plutoid

After being demoted from a planet to a dwarf planet by the International Astronomical Union (IAU) two years ago, the IAU has announced the term "plutoid" will be given to Pluto and similar dwarf planets.  Members of the IAU argued amongst themselves for two years, confused on how to classify dwarf stars like Pluto.  

Only dwarfs orbiting further than Neptune can be classified as a plutoid, and they must also circle the sun and be large enough to have their own gravitational field.  Pluto's permanent classification as a plutoid now means Neptune is the outermost planet in Earth's solar system; one complete orbit around the sun takes almost 165 years.

"Plutoids are celestial bodies in orbit around the sun at a distance greater than that of Neptune that have sufficient mass for their self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces so that they assume a hydrostatic equilibrium (near-spherical) shape, and that have not cleared the neighborhood around their orbit," said the IAU.

Pluto and Eris remain the only plutoids at the moment, but astronomers expect to find other small bodies that meet the qualifications to be a plutoid.

The controversy over Pluto's planet status has been strong for years, and the IAU-created plutoid classification most likely will not end the debate.  In fact, it is unlikely the debate regarding Pluto's status and what it should be classified as will never end, and defining it as a "plutoid" will only add fuel to the fire.

Many astronomers remain angry that Pluto, considered a planet for around 70 years, could have its status demoted so easily by the IAU.  Text book publishers and teachers must now begin to teach students that Pluto lost its planet status and is now a plutoid, along with describing the new classification.

The IAU has been the sole organization responsible for classifying all planetary bodies for more than a decade.

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RE: Pointless
By Reclaimer77 on 6/13/2008 10:22:49 AM , Rating: -1
Yeah this shows just how little some scientists have to do.

Exactly !

I just can't understand how someone could sleep better at night knowing their 12 years of college went down the toilet as they wasted time trying to " prove " that Pluto isn't a planet.

Really, good going douchebag. You really made the world a better place didn't you ? I'm sure the people of Earth AND Pluto can now rest easy knowing you have finally put an end to this monumental controversy ! Thank you !!

But I guess its no more or less productive then the thousands of scientists trying to prove global warming.

RE: Pointless
By jeff834 on 6/13/2008 1:48:51 PM , Rating: 5
Gosh dern right you are! Them scientists aint ever done nothin good for anybody! Why don't we just get rid of all that book lernin anyway it never did nobody no good.

People seem to think the term "scientist" means that person has to do something historically amazing or something. Scientist is just a profession like anyone else's. You don't care what farmers farm, manufacturers manufacture, or what book of the bible a preacher studies, so why should you care what scientists argue about?

The problem here is not what scientists study (which is really everything from energy concerns, astrophysics, or superconductors to penis enlargement pills), it's what is reported in the news. They discover new things in particle accelerators all the time, but you rarely hear about that stuff outside of science publications. You hear about things like what we should call Pluto because frankly its about all most people understand when it comes to science. Not all people, just most of them.

Call Pluto whatever the hell you want to call it, how often do you refer to Pluto anyway? Stop reading science stories if you aren't happy with what scientists are doing. Or better yet read a science publication and feel terrible about yourself because you haev no idea what they're talking about.

RE: Pointless
By McGuffin on 6/13/2008 6:16:30 PM , Rating: 2
I just can't understand how someone could sleep better at night knowing their 12 years of college went down the toilet as they wasted time trying to " prove " that Pluto isn't a planet.

If you don't get it, you're not supposed to. After all, it's not like knowing stuff is good for you. You just read this site for the graphics card reviews, don't you?

"Nowadays you can buy a CPU cheaper than the CPU fan." -- Unnamed AMD executive

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