Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Some Planets Never Die

After reading a copy of the New Scientist magazine today I found out that Pluto is actually still a planet... in Illinois.

Defying the rest of the astronomical community who, earlier in 2006, was demoted to the status to Dwarf Planet; down to the level of Eris.

"If Pluto is reinstated, it will probably be thanks to discovery rather than debate. Mark Sykes of the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Arizona, believes that revelations within and beyond our solar system over the coming years will make the IAU's controversial definition of a planet untenable. "We are in the midst of a conceptual revolution," he says. "We are shaking off the last vestiges of the mythological view of planets as special objects in the sky - and the idea that there has to be a small number of them because they're special."" Reports The New Scientist.
"Sykes is among those who prefer a simple and inclusive definition of planet status: if an object is big enough for its own gravity to squeeze it into a rounded shape, then call it a planet."

Firstly I'd like to point out that if a 18 year old student, with no science education past a year 10 level, can find an obvious problem with a claim like that it's probably not the best of claims. According to that vaguely scientific statement many new things would find themselves being named planets. For instance, the sun is a near perfect sphere if you see where I'm going with that one.

"It is also the sticking point. "It is a horrible mistake," says Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, who leads NASA's New Horizons mission to Pluto. "Any definition that allows a planet in one location but not another is unworkable. Take Earth. Move it to Pluto's orbit, and it will be instantly disqualified as a planet."

While Earth's gravity is easily strong enough to have cleared the debris from our relatively small neighbourhood, two factors mean that it would fail to do the job if placed at Pluto's distance: the outer solar system is vast, and everything moves much more slowly out there. According to Sykes, 4.5 billion years would not be nearly long enough for a small and sluggish Earth to sweep those great expanses clean."

Remembering what I just said, 2 main points.
  1. Location is often key. A sun is a star in the center of a solar system. Take it out of the solar system and it is just a star. No ones crying on that one. So by his logic, as a planet must also be orbiting a sun, if you take earth out of orbit it isn't a planet and therefor every old bit of rock you can swap a planet with is a planet, just because you can swap a planet with it? Have a trophy everyone, you all win because you participated. Celestial Parking Failure (CPF) should not be encouraged, especially not by man.
  2. 4.5Billion years wouldn't be enough, and earth wouldn't be a planet. Get over it. We also most likely wouldn't exist, if we did we wouldn't care, in fact we'd probably consider ourselves more special. It was unclear, but it seemed that the earth would eventually clear the debris and become a planet, just like every other planet.
To conclude, Illinois sucks and New Scientist needs to try and maintain their usual standard a little more consistently. However for links to the article go here and for the new scientist homepage click this.

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