Is Zeus a planet?

In case you were on another spherical object last summer, you were probably aware of the debate over the definition of a planet. In this debate, Pluto has been seen widely to have been "demoted" to dwarf planet status. The word "demoted" has been used often as if Pluto has stopped existing or has had its pension rights removed. Before the debate I was quite happy for Pluto to remain a planet and even admit some new members to the the planet club based on a definition such as "spherical equilibrium". However, the ensuing debate and the apparent emotional response has left me caring very little about what is and what isn't a planet. Ultimately, this is an issue of semantics and doesn't affect the reality of what Pluto, Eris, Earth or Jupiter are actually composed of or how interesting they are.

One of the things that has come out of all this is the emotional attachment, anger and upset that many people have over Pluto (I can't help thinking that there are far more important things for people to worry about on Earth than what we call Pluto). Perhaps some of the attachment to Pluto is due to the name. After all, Disney was quick to use the name for a popular cartoon dog and that must be built into the conciousness of many people in the western world. What if Pluto was not named Pluto? What if Venetia Phair had been ignored and some of the original suggestions had been used? Would we have a Society for the Preservation of Zeus as a Planet? Would anybody start a petition to save 134340? Would New Mexico have made a declaration that Constance is a Planet when over its skies? Does alliteration help Pluto's cause? Can I ask any more rhetorical questions?

Pluto and its three moons are hugely interesting. I no longer care if it is a planet or dwarf planet. It is Pluto.

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Posted in astro blog by Stuart on Tuesday 24th Apr 2007 (12:21 BST) | Permalink
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