Feeds

Planet status looking shaky for Pluto

And then there were eight

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

Just when things were looking up for Pluto, astronomers have come up with a new definition of a planet that would leave the poor little mite out in the cold.

After last week's proposed definition of a planet, Pluto, along with the asteroid Ceres and two other large Kuiper belt objects, looked set to be officially classed as a planet. Or at least a pluton*, a sort of minor planetish thing, but still a planet.

However, scientists being scientists, a counter definition was almost immediately put forward at the International Astronomers Union in Prague, according to New Scientist.

Following a bit of a scuffle behind closed doors, accusations of ignoring the democratic process, and much bad language (we're just guessing on that last bit) a compromise definition has been written.

The original draft said a body could be classed as a planet if it met the following conditions: (a) has sufficient mass for its self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces so that it assumes a hydrostatic equilibrium (nearly round) shape, and (b) is in orbit around a star, and is neither a star nor a satellite of a planet.

The new draft includes a third quality: the object must be the dominant body in its orbital area. Pluto would be ejected from the planetary brotherhood under this definition, as its orbit crosses that of Neptune, which is much larger (Sadly, Beavis, any jokes about Uranus will have to be filed for another time).

Planet-ish objects that meet the earlier definition, but fail to make the grade because of the new criterion could be called dwarf planets, or planetoids. Naturally, this is still a controversial point.

The definition would also only apply to planets in our solar system, leaving astronomers plenty to argue about when they find other almost spherical objects orbiting other stars.

The assembled professional skywatchers are set to vote on the definition tomorrow. Stay tuned for the result. ®

*Bootnote: Geologists have objected to the word Pluton, as it already has a meaning in Geology. It is a term used to describe a body of igneous rock formed beneath the surface of the earth by consolidation of magma.

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
GRAV WAVE DRAMA: 'Big Bang echo' may have been grit on the scanner – boffins
Exit Planet Dust on faster-than-light expansion of universe
SpaceX Dragon cargo truck flies 3D printer to ISS: Clawdown in 3, 2...
Craft berths at space station with supplies, experiments, toys
That glass of water you just drank? It was OLDER than the SUN
One MEELLION years older. Some of it anyway
Big dinosaur wowed females with its ENORMOUS HOOTER
That's right, Doris, I've got biggest snout in the prehistoric world
Japanese volcano eruption reportedly leaves 31 people presumed dead
Hopes fade of finding survivors on Mount Ontake
Relive the death of Earth over and over again in Extinction Game
Apocalypse now, and tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that ...
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.