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Science

Planetary emotional rollercoaster

Posted by Hannah / August 24, 2006

pluto%20and%20moon.jpgPoor Pluto. The icy orb circling the outer limits of our solar system -- albeit on a rather wonky trajectory -- has had quite the shaky summer.

Astronomers have spent the better part of the past few months repeating history by arguing over Pluto's planetary status. For a while, it seemed as though it might keep its spot as the ultimate planet in our solar system. (The Colbert Report offers a good primer on planetary astronomy.) But today, the International Astronomical Union stripped the poor thing of its rights to be a planet.

The reason? Its oblong orbit, which overlaps with Neptune, means that Pluto has not "cleared the neighbourhood around its orbit." Membership is now restricted to Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune.

Pluto has been downsized to a dwarf planet, along with Ceres--which has had an equally tumultuous history, having been declared a planet in the 1800s before being demoted to asteroid-- and 2003 UB313, which its discoverer, Michael Brown of the California Institute of Technology, affectionately calls Xena.

The beleaguered NASA has yet to comment on the future of the New Horizons mission it sent to the "planet" Pluto earlier this year. The spacecraft isn't expected to arrive until 2015. Neither has the Museum of Science in Boston nor the state of Maine said what they will do with their scale models of the nine-planet solar system.

Discussion

11 Comments

Christy / August 24, 2006 at 10:58 am
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Oh, man, I've been waiting to hear about this. You think the public's going to go for it? And what's the story on Persephone?

P.S. Did you hear about the <a href="http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/08/060821215852.htm";>HIV research breakthrough</a> here in Montreal? Givin' my homies in SF a run for their money. Hot hot hot.
Nika / August 24, 2006 at 03:10 pm
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Freakin' planetary elists. Pft.
mike / August 24, 2006 at 06:27 pm
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i'm really bummed about this. pluto was, like, totally one of my favourite planets. now all i have is "My Violin Even My Jock Sucks Ur anus Not"...i've been using this since grade 7 and now it doesn't make sense (because before it made total sense).
Hannah / August 24, 2006 at 07:44 pm
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The <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/magazine/4737647.stm";>BBC </a>treats us to several planet mnemonics, that will no longer have a place in the notebooks of kids everywhere.
My Very Excellent Mother Just Sent Us Nine Pizzas
My Very Earnest Mother Just Served Us Nine Pickles
Matilda Visits Every Monday, Just Stays Until Noon, Period
Christy / August 24, 2006 at 11:23 pm
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MY mother was Educated.

I think Matilda's the only one who's gonna survive the mnemonic-ocaust.

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