Azara Blog: Pluto is allegedly a pluton planet

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Date published: 2006/08/16

The BBC says:

The number of planets around the Sun could rise from nine to 12 - with more on the way - if experts approve a radical new vision of our Solar System.

An endorsement by astronomers meeting in Prague would require school and university textbooks to be rewritten.

The proposal recognises eight classical planets, three planets belonging to a new category called "plutons" and the largest asteroid Ceres.

Pluto remains a planet, but becomes the basis for the new pluton category.

The plan has been drawn up by the International Astronomical Union (IAU) with the aim of settling the question of what does and does not count as a planet.

Some 2,500 astronomers gathered at the IAU General Assembly in Prague will vote on the plan next Thursday.

"For the first time in more than 75 years, we will be able to discover new planets in our Solar System. This is a fascinating prospect," said Richard Binzel, a member of the IAU planet definition committee which put together the proposal.

Well what is and is not a planet is of course fairly arbitrary. But the IAU seems fairly keen to choose a relatively stupid definition, and the introduction of the new category "pluton" sounds like an April Fool's Joke. It's hard to believe these proposals will receive widespread acceptance. Most people who look at the science believe there are eight planets. Apparently the IAU is either afraid of irate ten year old Americans berating them for suggesting that Pluto is not a planet, or perhaps the comment by Binzel is more to the point, since this proposal opens up another way for astronomers to justify their existence by discovering new "planets".

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