Pluto’s demotion to Dwarf Planet

Last week, I wrote some comments about the IAU discussions to expand the definition of planet to include not only Pluto, but its moon Charon, and other, smaller bodies. The actual vote has occurred, and rather than expanding the definition, they’ve chosen to restrict it further by creating a new term, dwarf planet. Pluto, Charon, Ceres, the newly discovered Xena … all qualify for the new designation.

Leaving aside the human rights issues about the use of the term dwarf, it seems an excellent way to solve the controversy, though not everyone seems happy with the new designation. ““Pluto gets no respect, man,” John Neal, 23, said. “I mean, I took an astronomy class in college, and I still don’t know anything about it.” The fact remains that Pluto has never had the same properties as the other planets, being the smallest of the bunch. If it were hanging out down here by the sun, in a roughly circular orbit, like the rest of the small, rocky planets, then we could be forgiven for thinking of it as a smaller version of our own planets. But out at the edge of the system, its brothers are the massive gas giants … it never seemed to fit into the natural order of things.

So this change is probably a long time coming. I’m not sure dwarf planet is precisely right … as I said in the other post about Pluto, I’m not convinced Pluto formed at the same time as, or the same way as, the other planets, for a number of reasons … but IMO, Pluto has always looked different from the rest of the solar system. Now, with Pluto downgraded, time to get rolling with my “Titan for Planet” campaign.

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