Feeds

Planet status looking shaky for Pluto

And then there were eight

Build a business case: developing custom apps

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.

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Boffins attempt to prove the UNIVERSE IS JUST A HOLOGRAM
Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?
Our LOHAN spaceplane ballocket Kickstarter climbs through £8000
Through 25 per cent but more is needed: Get your UNIQUE rewards!
China building SUPERSONIC SUBMARINE that travels in a BUBBLE
Shanghai to San Fran in two hours would be a trick, though
LOHAN tunes into ultra long range radio
And verily, Vultures shall speak status unto distant receivers
SpaceX prototype rocket EXPLODES over Texas. 'Tricky' biz, says Elon Musk
No injuries or near injuries. Flight stayed in designated area
Galileo, Galileo! Galileo, Galileo! Galileo fit to go. Magnifico
I'm just a poor boy, nobody loves me. But at least I can find my way with ESA GPS by 2017
EOS, Lockheed to track space junk from Oz
WA facility gets laser-eyes out of the fog
prev story

Whitepapers

Top 10 endpoint backup mistakes
Avoid the ten endpoint backup mistakes to ensure that your critical corporate data is protected and end user productivity is improved.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Backing up distributed data
Eliminating the redundant use of bandwidth and storage capacity and application consolidation in the modern data center.
The essential guide to IT transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIOs automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.