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Pluto No Longer Considered a Planet
Solar system reduced under strict no definition
Alex Argote (alexphil)     Print Article 
  Published 2006-08-26 04:40 (KST)   
After centuries of confusion, astronomers finally produced a working set of guidelines and a definition in deciding which space object is a planet and which is not.

The International Astronomical Union, a worldwide society of astronomers from 75 countries voted on the final proposal after more than a week of heated debates over the standards in properly classifying celestial bodies into different categories.

As a result, the solar system's lineup of planets has been pared down to eight when 424 astronomers voted Pluto into obscurity and designated it as just a mere "dwarf planet" like hundreds more of space rocks in the fringes of the system.

The "New Definition" explicitly says that "a planet is a celestial body that is in orbit around the sun, has sufficient mass for self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces so that it assumes a almost round shape, and has cleared the neighborhood around its orbit."

That leaves the heavyweights of the solar system, eight heavenly bodies named after mighty gods of antiquity, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune, Uranus and our very own mother Earth as the sole mainstays of the elite planetary club. Accordingly, Pluto was demoted from planethood mainly because of its erratic orbit which overlaps that of Neptune.

Earlier, the IAU previously hinted that the planets will be increased from nine to twelve based on a controversial proposal which classifies as planet any round celestial body that orbits the sun. The new additions could have been the asteroid Ceres(a planet during the 1800s), 2003 UB313, an icy object a little bigger than Pluto and nicknamed Xena by its discoverer, Michael Brown of the California Institute of Technology.

Charon, the largest among the three moons of Pluto was also considered for planethood in the "new definition" that raised many brows in the astronomers' union and spawned sometimes combative, heated arguments among the planetary scientists who gathered in Prague, Czech Republic this week to hammer-out an important resolution to resolve the long-standing dispute in astronomy including Pluto's status.

If the proposal had pushed through, hundreds of round-shaped objects, even including our Earth's satellite- the moon, eventually will be included in the exalted club of planets as vast swaths of space beyond Neptune are teeming with circular, icy celestial bodies or rocks.

Instead, the IAU members created a new category for Pluto and its moon Charon. They are now known as "dwarf planets," a new group of celestial bodies which the astronomers coined to accomodate space objects with lesser-than-classical planetary stature.

A third group of minor celestial bodies orbiting around the sun has also been formed, the small solar system bodies that heretofore will include many asteroids, comets, and natural satellites.

With the recent tweaking of Earth's neighborhood, goverments and educational institutions around the world are expected to launch a task of galactic proportions to teach billions of schoolchildren, people and students about the latest updates in the solar system and astronomy.

- Pluto No Longer Considered a Planet, by Alex Argote 

©2006 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Alex Argote

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