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August 24, 2006

Bastards: By Vote, Astronomers Deplanetize Pluto

Hope all their hookers had the clap:

E, Czech Republic - 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.

...

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

"It could be argued that we are creating an umbrella called 'planet' under which the dwarf planets exist," she said, drawing laughter by waving a stuffed Pluto of Walt Disney fame beneath a real umbrella.

Big funny.

...

Much-maligned Pluto doesn't make the grade under the new rules for 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."

Pluto is automatically disqualified because its oblong orbit overlaps with Neptune's.

Instead, it will be reclassified in a new category of "dwarf planets," similar to what long have been termed "minor planets." The definition also lays out a third class of lesser objects that orbit the sun β€” "small solar system bodies," a term that will apply to numerous asteroids, comets and other natural satellites.

...

That plan proved highly unpopular, splitting astronomers into factions and triggering days of sometimes combative debate that led to Pluto's undoing.

Now, two of the objects that at one point were cruising toward possible full-fledged planethood will join Pluto as dwarfs: the asteroid Ceres, which was a planet in the 1800s before it got demoted, and 2003 UB313, an icy object slightly larger than Pluto whose discoverer, Michael Brown of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena has nicknamed Xena.

Charon, the largest of Pluto's three moons, is no longer under consideration for any special designation.

I question the timing.

Well, Astronomical Union jerkweeds, you've made your ruling. Now let us see you enforce it.

Update: George Bush hates tiny planets.


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posted by Ace at 08:59 AM

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