Pluto no longer a planet, say astronomers


For a Free Scotland
PRAGUE, Czech Republic (AP) -- 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.

After a tumultuous week of clashing over the essence of the cosmos, the International Astronomical Union stripped Pluto of the planetary status it has held since its discovery in 1930. The new definition of what is -- and isn't -- a planet fills a centuries-old black hole for scientists who have labored since Copernicus without one.

Although astronomers applauded after the vote, Jocelyn Bell Burnell -- a specialist in neutron stars from Northern Ireland who oversaw the proceedings -- 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.

The decision by the prestigious international group spells out the basic tests that celestial objects will have to meet before they can be considered for admission to the elite cosmic club.

For now, membership will be restricted to the eight "classical" planets in the solar system: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune.

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 -- "small solar system bodies," a term that will apply to numerous asteroids, comets and other natural satellites.

It was unclear how Pluto's demotion might affect the mission of NASA's New Horizons spacecraft, which earlier this year began a 91/2-year journey to the oddball object to unearth more of its secrets.

The decision at a conference of 2,500 astronomers from 75 countries was a dramatic shift from just a week ago, when the group's leaders floated a proposal that would have reaffirmed Pluto's planetary status and made planets of its largest moon and two other objects. (Watch why some think planet size doesn't matter -- 3:39)

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, has nicknamed "Xena."

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

Brown was pleased by the decision. He had argued that Pluto and similar bodies didn't deserve planet status, saying that would "take the magic out of the solar system."

"UB313 is the largest dwarf planet. That's kind of cool," he said.

Please post your condolences for Pluto.


A Darker Knight
OMG. THis will revolutionize the song I was taught in kindergarten. It'll just stop abruptly at Neptune.

anyway. Even if Pluto was reclassified as a dwaarf planet, I don't think many people will recognize that until many many years later. It may not even be completely accepted in the professional realm of astronmy either.
Its amazing how much the solar system has changed since we were taught about it in elementary and middle school...that is just a sign of how fast we are advancing in the field and the technology. Another amazing thing is how fast the internet became such a big part of life. 10 years ago i was in like 3rd grade...i remember the internet was SO different lol


Registered Member
Yeah, as soon as I heard this today I began to whistle and hum the School-Rock song. "there are nine planets in the solar they say Mars has martians but earth has wierd people too!"


Just wait, the ACLU will file a grievance against minority disenfranchisement for Plutoites and Rev. Jesse will be preaching Pluto harrassment and Earth whites keeping the Pluto minorities down... Astronomy Society voting fraud will be strongly alleged and Favored Planet Status will be hotly debated at the U.N. by Koffi et al. By this time next year, Pluto discrimination will be a favored Democrat Platform... already the Party is trying to figure out how to blame Bush... or Lieberman!
does it really MATTER what a planet is or if Pluto actually is one? What ever research, exploration, colonization, etc. that may happen in the future is not going to suddenly say "we can't use/look at/study this planet/moon/iceball because it's not technically a planet".


No Custom Title Exists
It never was an planet

And Now the Song About Planets Stops at N

Thats crap..

Anyways..I really dont know why they removed it
I think the most important Planets and people mention it non-stop are

Earth and Mars
Non Planets: Sun and Moon

And I dont think that the other planets are important..There is no life in them and NASA never goes there

But I think they should check out if there is anything there


For a Free Scotland
And I dont think that the other planets are important..There is no life in them and NASA never goes there
Besides being the future colonialization and terra-forming locations of human civilizations, and ignoring the Pluto Express, Voyagers 1 and 2, the Huygens probe, missions to Venus, that statement is correct. Of course they're important,they're physical evidence to determining the various parts of the universe.