In The News: Target-Enriching the Environment

I’ll See Your Nine Planets, and I’ll Raise You Three

The International Astronomical Union has been grappling with the definition of the word “planet” for some time, and if they do (as expected) settle on their current draft definition, then the number of objects in our solar system that are officially planets will shortly be on the rise. Our newly-dubbed planets will be Ceres (a big object between Mars and Jupiter that was formerly referred to as the largest asteroid in our system), Charon (which used to be referred to as Pluto’s moon, but due to its size is now seen more as a sister planet) and the prosaically-named  2003 UB313 (an object farther out than but bigger than Pluto). I say that last one needs a new name. How about Bob? That’d be a good name for a planet.

The old definition of planet (“wanderer,” a visible object that moves against a background of more-or-less-fixed stars) is regarded as unworkable and obsolete, so they needed a new one that covers current scientific knowledge. The discovery of objects in the outer system that are as big as or bigger than Pluto brought the need for a reworked definition to the fore. If this new definition is indeed approved, then at least 12 more objects in our solar system might be up for renomenclature. So what is the draft definition? It orbits a star, isn’t itself a star, and is pretty much spherical due to internal gravitational pressures.

Plus there’s a new term up for approval: Pluton. A pluton is a planet-like object that takes a really long time to orbit the sun and has a tilted, non-circular orbital path.

That’s very, vey interesting to me. I love the power of words and opfficial changes thereof to change how we look at our universe.

One funny note: the article also has a bit where astrologers weigh in on the issue. Can anything be less relevant to a discussion of scientific nomenclature than astrology? The astrologer goes on about how discovery of new planets is a huge deal astrologically speaking. I’ve got a news flash for the guy. We’ve known about these “new planets” for a while already… they’re just getting renamed.

This news could be either very good or very bad for mad scientists and villains everywhere. On the plus side, it provides them more targets that are now theoretically worth blowing up… but with target proliferation like this, how is an unstable madman to choose? Is… a… puzzlement!


5 Responses to “In The News: Target-Enriching the Environment”

  1. creativedv8tion Says:

    2003 UB313 (an object farther out than but bigger than Pluto).

    Is that the one they’ve been tossing the name “Xena” about in regards to?

  2. uhlrik Says:

    I think so, but there are several more similar objects out there, so I’m not sure.

  3. creativedv8tion Says:


    I’m gonna go grill me an italian sausage.

    (No, there was no point to that, why do you ask?)

  4. bosantibe Says:

    I particularly enjoyed seeing that half-baked horoscope prediction for the progress of science in the near future. Maybe it’s true we’ll be seeing nuclear fusion in the next 18 months, but that presentation was definitely half-baked to have such heavy implications and be tacked onto the end of another discussion that way.

  5. uhlrik Says:

    The whole astrology bit seemed to be totally tacked-on to the article.

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