Solar system to welcome three new planets

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Solar system to welcome three new planets

Postby Zazaban » Thu Aug 17, 2006 5:14 pm ... D=10396493

2.00pm Wednesday August 16, 2006
By Steve Connor

The nine planets of the solar system are about to be transformed into 12.

The International Astronomical Union (IAU) is planning to add three new members to the exclusive club of large celestial objects orbiting our Sun.

Astronomers are about to vote on an official proposal to extend the definition of a planet to include at least three more objects that are known to be big enough to warrant planetary status.

It will mean that astronomy textbooks will have to be rewritten with the names Ceres, Charon and UB313 being added to the more familiar names of the classical planets.

At one point it was thought that Pluto - the smallest and most distant of the planets - would be kicked out of the club, but now it appears that it is welcomed as the prototype of a new class of smaller planets known as "plutons".

The International Astronomical Union, which has been the arbiter of planetary nomenclature since 1919, has received a new definition of a planet from a special committee of seven experts set up two years ago to adjudicate on the issue.

Ron Ekers, the president of the IAU, said the ancient description of a planet as an object that wanders against a backdrop of fixed stars is no longer valid in an age of advanced telescopes.

"Modern science provides muchmore knowledge than the simple fact that objects orbiting the Sun appear to move with respect to the background of fixed stars," Dr Ekers said.

"Recent new discoveries have been made of objects in the outer regions of our solar system that have sizes comparable to and larger than Pluto.

These discoveries have rightfully called into question whether or not they should be considered as new planets." The three new planets are Charon, once considered a moon of Pluto but now described as its double planet; Ceres, formerly known as an asteroid or minor planet; and UB313, an object that has yet to be given a formal name (although it has been nicknamed Xena), and which was only identified last year.

There are now eight "classical"planets, three "plutons", those planets that are similar in size to Pluto withextremely wide solar orbits, and theasteroid-like Ceres.

Experts sitting on IAU's planet definition committee - composed of astronomers, historians and writers - concluded that in future a planet should be defined as a celestial body that is big enough for its gravity field to form a near-spherical shape.

The object must also be in orbit around the Sun - or another star - but not as a satellite of another planet, which rules out the Moon and the larger moons of other planets.

"Our goal was to find a scientific basis for a new definition of 'planet', and we chose gravity as the determining factor," said Professor Richard Binzel, a planetary scientist and member of the definition committee.

"Nature decides whether or not an object is a planet.".

The new definition of a planet means that there are another dozen or two dozen other known objects in the solar system that may one day be included in the planetary club.

The seven-member definition committee convened in Paris in late June and early July, and its recommendations will now go to the IAU's general assembly which will vote on the resolution as its meeting in Prague this week.

Professor Owen Gingrich, the committee chairman, said the deliberations were long and hard, but in the end a consensus was reached.

"In July we had vigorous discussions of both the scientific and the cultural-historical issues and on the second morning several members admitted that they had not slept well, worrying that we would not be able to reach a consensus," Professor Gingrich said.

"But by the end of a long day, the miracle had happened - we had reached a unanimous agreement."The issue came to a head after it was discovered that UB313 was bigger than Pluto, which was discovered in 1930 and was only called a planet because it was originally thought to be as big as Earth.


Cool. Now we're going to have 24+ planets.
Justice and equity are twin Guardians that watch over men. From them are revealed such blessed and perspicuous words as are the cause of the well-being of the world and the protection of the nations.
~ Bahá'u'lláh

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Postby onepence » Thu Aug 17, 2006 10:21 pm

you know there is a whole Baha'i cosomology
as of yet not very well developed
but none the less
a Baha'i cosmology exists

It is envisioned that all the stars and planets will be renamed after the heros of our Faith

The north star Baha'u'llah
then the holy family would be the stars closest to Baha'u'llahs' star.

The apostles of Baha'u'llah and the Hands of the Cause of God
should all have stars named for them

And as the heavens are notated in terms of the zodiac
it is envisioned that in the future
the heavens will be notated in terms of the Baha'i calendar
{unsure of how it might work ... 18 {months} times 20 degrees = 360 degrees ... 19 month {or is it the first month?} is viewed as the whole heaven [the center star which all things revolve]??? ... come up with a different measuring scale ???}

In fact ... the style of the ancient greek outdoor auditoriums shall even return ... with indivduals of note performing great soliquies as they point to the heavens and proclaim

The Glory of God

the apostle dean

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Postby onepence » Thu Aug 17, 2006 11:28 pm

Fixing the Planet Definition ... &tb=1&pb=1

The net is buzzing with talk of the new planet definition. As I wrote yesterday, I don't think the definition is ideal, and the introduction of the novel coinage "pluton" particularly irks me, but I think that many critics have boosted themselves into a hyperbolic orbit. Roughly, they argue that categories are hopelessly arbitrary and fuzzy, so it's pointless even to try to define a planet.

The trouble with this line of argument is that categorizing objects has played an important role in the development of science. Just because categories involve subjectivity doesn't mean they can't capture objective truths about nature. To make sense of stars, for example, astronomers divvied them up according to color and brightness, discerned patterns, and explained these patterns theoretically. Categories overlap to a degree -- and that's fine. In fact, a researcher trying to understand a phenomenon does well to look at the marginal examples.

Our solar system contains different populations of bodies, reflecting distinct histories and processes. Planets are the endpoint of accretion in a circumstellar disk. Asteroids and comets represent an earlier stage of accretion, as well as different post-accretion processing. Regular satellites represent accretion in a circumplanetary disk rather than a circumstellar one -- a distinction that affects the distribution of satellite properties. Thus the term "planet" is not just a cultural construct. (Incidentally, even if it were, the public would still look to astronomers for guidance.)

The trick is to choose the right observational proxies for these distinctions. The IAU committee selected two: mass and location. The critics think the mass criterion was chosen just to grandfather Pluto into the planetary pantheon. Yet the cumulative mass distribution of solar-system bodies does seem to show a break around the mass of Ceres. Personally, I think the more problematic proxy is the second one: that a planet must orbit a star. This criterion excludes bodies that clearly did form as planets, such as Triton and interstellar free-floaters.

Another possible proxy would be geologic: a body that sustains geologic activity sometime in its history. That would provide both a lower and an upper mass cutoff, would match what most people think of as a full-fledged world, and would make the planet definition more closely parallel to the definition of a star (self-luminous, self-sculpting). The geologic activity could be defined as either volcanism or differentiation.

Don't forget to weigh in with mnemonics!

Posted by George Musser 7 comments

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Postby onepence » Thu Aug 24, 2006 8:46 pm

Some Take Dim View of Pluto's Loss of Status ... ce=r_space

By Abe Winter, Omaha World-Herald, Neb.

Aug. 24--The news from the Czech Republic didn't please Jack Northrup, planetarium director at King Science and Technology Magnet Center in Omaha.

Just when he was thinking that astronomers were about to add three planets to our solar system, they instead reduced the number from the current nine to eight.

Pluto was downgraded today by a vote of the general assembly of the International Astronomical Union in Prague. And three proposed new planets -- Charon, a moon of Pluto; Xena, which is way beyond Pluto; and Ceres, an asteroid between Mars and Jupiter -- failed to make the grade.

"I'm not a big fan of that," Northrup said of the change in Pluto's status. "I think we can come up with a method of grouping planets that would allow ...


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