After a week of clashing over the essense of the cosmos and drinking Pan-Galactic Gargleblasters, leading astronomers declared Thursday that Pluto is no longer a planet.
The International Astronomical Union stripped Pluto of its planetary status, which it had held since it was discovered in 1930. Disney's dog was named after the planet, not the other way around.
Finally, there is a definition of 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, CNN reported.
Pluto is now reclassified in a new category of "dwarf planets," similar to what long have been termed "minor planets." Personally, I would have held out for the word "planetoid." So much cooler.
Another new category has been created as well: "small solar system bodies," a term that will apply to numerous asteroids, comets and other natural satellites.
Atrologers will be happy that they can now drop the difficult to account for Pluto from their readings. For now, planets are back to the eight "classical" ones: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. Oh, right, astrologers consider the Sun and the Moon planets, too. Oops.
The conference of 2,500 astronomers from 75 countries had us fooled. Last week there was a proposal on the table to not only keep Pluto, but to add its moon and two other objects as planets, bringing the count up to 12. Before the change in definition, even Earth's Moon would have been called a planet under one proposal.
Once before a celestial body has been de-planetfied. In the 1800s, Ceres, now considered an asteroid, was considered a planet.
Pluto was quoted as saying, "I had a good run... 76 years... and you can't take THAT away from me."
And in 2003, Xena, an icy object slightly larger than Pluto discovered by Michael Brown of Cal Tech was hyped as the 10th planet. Now, it's the largest of the dwarves.
And poor Charon, the largest of Pluto's three moons, is no longer under consideration for anything. It had such high hopes, but even its parent Pluto has been dissed.
Image: Pluto and two of its moons.
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