Plurality of Planets

Last week, at .Astronomy in Oxford, Amanda and the "Trans-Neptunian Objectors" created a music video about Pluto. The video laments Pluto's change in status as a planet although that doesn't necessarily represent the views of those taking part (in fact I don't think any of them care about Pluto's status).

On Amanda's blog, Laurel Kornfeld, long time defender of Pluto's status, was quick to comment. She brought up all the standard arguments she has used on this blog and elsewhere since August 2006. Laurel really didn't like the decision. Despite what Laurel says, I am yet to meet an astronomer that really cares about it one way or another (in fact Laurel is the only person ever to be annoyed about it to me). Astronomers care much more about the fact that Pluto is an interesting object than the linguistic box it happens to be in. The word "planet" isn't really that important, scientifically, as astronomers know that there are objects of all sizes out there. The boundaries are blurry even if we pretend to have scientifically defined hard cut-offs. We need to stop caring what is or isn't a "planet".

To reinstate Pluto as a planet, many other solar system bodies would become (again, in many cases) planets. We would go from a situation of 50 year or so period of knowing there were 9 planets in our solar system, to there being 8, to there being an ever increasing number. We would probably have to reinstate the minor body asteroid dwarf planet Ceres (~NSFW) for one. Why stop there though? Let's go back to the original definition of planet. To the ancient Greeks it meant "wanderer" - any celestial object moving compared to the "fixed" stars. That definition is very straightforward to understand. The Sun and Moon would both be reinstated. No worries. Let's make high-proper motion stars into planets too. Hey, why not add the ISS while we're at it? We'd have to demote the Earth. I'm OK with that.

(Note: all mentions of Pluto in the comments will be replaced with Goofy)

Bonus points for comments in song form

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Posted in astro blog by Stuart on Monday 11th Apr 2011 (09:37 GMT) | Permalink
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