13 June 2008


So now Pluto is not even a dwarf planet, but a "plutoid?" According to the International Astronomical Union (IAU), plutoids are defined as:
celestial bodies in orbit around the sun at a distance greater than that of
Neptune that have sufficient mass for their self-gravity to overcome rigid
body forces so that they assume a hydrostatic equilibrium (near-spherical)
shape, and that have not cleared the neighborhood around their orbit.
How can you define a celestial object by referring to the specific geometry of our little solar system? Ridiculous.

Methinks New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern is actually enjoying this latest imbroglio, as it casts the IAU in a rather unflattering light.

With regard to the etymology of plutoid, he said: "It sounds like 'hemorrhoid' and it sounds like 'asteroid', and of course these objects are planets and not asteroids."

With regard to the question that an IAU rival may form, he wrote: "There is a disturbance in the force. Enough said."

Any dude who brings Star Wars to the table is okay by me, and any definition of a planet that encompasses both tiny Mercury and enormous Jupiter should be flexible enough to include Pluto as well.

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