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Around 2,500 scientists and astronomers are meeting in Prague to discuss Pluto

Pluto has been surrounded by controversy since it was spotted in 1930 by US astronomer Clyde Tombaugh.  The main debate around the small planet is whether or not it truly qualifies to be a planet.  To help settle the debate, or further complicate the situation, the International Astronomical Union is going to meet to decide Pluto's fate during a 12-day meeting.  The 2,500 astronomers from 75 countries are meeting to speak about planets.  As many as 14 "planet-like" bodies may need to be considered if the panel of scientists and astronomers decides that Pluto will remain a planet.  One alternative that is being considered is for the union to demote Pluto into its own category -- which would leave Earth's solar system with only eight planets.

Large planet-like bodies located in the Kuiper belt has caused some confusion for astronomers.  The largest body in the Kuiper belt, 2003 UB313, has a diameter of almost 1,490 kilometers, which is around 110 kilometers larger than Pluto's diameter.  Along with 2003 UB313, there are several other bodies that could technically be classified as planets.  The size, location, formation method and orbital characteristics may now be included in the new definition of a planet.  The 10th major body in our solar system, for example, is larger than Pluto but has not been classified a planet either.

A new and easier way to define what a planet is will be released on Wednesday.  The meeting in Prague opens today and is scheduled to last 12 days.  Earlier this year scientists using the Hubble telescope discovered that Pluto has two additional large orbiting bodies around it

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RE: all seems silly, really...
By TomZ on 8/14/2006 8:58:43 PM , Rating: 3
It would be like people in Copernicus and Galileo's time going "OK so we believe you that the earth rotates around the sun, but let's keep it backwards because that's how we learned it in gradeschool".

This is a bad analogy, because in the case you state, there was a fundamental misunderstanding about the nature of things. In the case of Pluto, the existence of pluto is not being debated, just its classification as planet or non-planet. The latter discussion is relatively academic and doesn't change our fundamental understanding of our solar system at all. Therefore, I think this decision is a "don't care" for most people.

RE: all seems silly, really...
By Spinne on 8/14/2006 10:23:33 PM , Rating: 2
Actually, it isn't even academic, it's just about personal preferance. Physics doesn't care about weather you call it a planet or a freaky hippie with a really large mirror, it'll still go around the CoM of the Solar System. I'm guessing that the only people who'll be discussing the status of Pluto, and won't be on a long coffee break, will be the groups who found the other large balls.

RE: all seems silly, really...
By xsilver on 8/14/2006 10:24:25 PM , Rating: 2
yes and also in the case of pluto, it would be spitting in the face of the people who discovered it. In the copernicus/galileo instance, the church activly opposed the paradigm shift, whereas the people who discovered pluto, simply didnt have enough info.

personally, I think either way is fine, its not like its going to make an astronomical difference to our lives (pun intended)

RE: all seems silly, really...
By KashGarinn on 8/15/2006 10:09:59 AM , Rating: 2
Firstly, you don't write (pun intended) when you pun.. that defeats the point with a pun.. at most a smiley but never (pun intended).

Secondly I find it amusing that peoples' emotions are affecting whether pluto be viewed as a planet or an asteroid.. we're not talking about a cute lil dog from the disney cartoons, we're talking about a cold cruddy rock-formation from the backnecks of the solarsystem. The fact that pluto is incorrectly classified as a planet, or that it bears a widely recognisable name does not necessarily mean that it should hold its status as a planet when it isn't a planet.

Let's call a spade a spade, and pluto an asteroid. Everyone knows it's the right category for the thing.

I think it's the first time I've seen the "rose by any other name would smell as sweet" analogy as completely false.. as no one wants to recategorise pluto into an asteroid.. well, this and the fact no one wants to rename roses to farts.


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