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One needs a nomenclature which captures multiple aspects of an object, such as size, shape, composition, orbit, company. The combinations of it all would require many new unique words. So I think that the solution is to name those aspects which are of interest in the specific context. Even Earth has been generally accepted as a planet since only years.

It is perceived as an anti-Pluto definition for good reasons. If your comment is meant for me, I do write articles myself on astronomy and planetary science. Thank you Laurel. Astronomy is a science where anyone with a scope can contribute, and inspires a following of self taught experts with extremely accurate knowledge of this or that aspect of the field. The idea that a bunch of tired delegates meeting once among themselves can say the last word on any topic, is risible.

Another excellent article by Matt Williams. To clear one point it must be remembered that UT articles are always written very quickly, they need to be to keep up todate. Hence odd errors do occur, and must be expected, they are generally very quickly corrected. The reasons I advance for placing Pluto as a Outer Asteroid Belt object is that its orbit is inclined at 17 degrees to the rest of the Solar System and also that for a number of years it is actually closer to the Sun than Neptune.

When first Main Asteroid Belt objects were discovered, early 19th cent. If you put asteroids and Pluto in the same category, then it no longer forms a Belt. Pluto is NOT an asteroid. You are making the same mistake the four percent of the IAU did in , which is defining an object by its location rather than by its intrinsic properties. Asteroids are tiny rocks shaped only by their chemical bonds.

In contrast, objects in hydrostatic equilibrium squeezed by their own gravity into a spherical or nearly spherical shape are complex worlds, often with geology and weather, layered into core, mantle, and crust just like the terrestrial planets. Calling objects like Pluto asteroids is bad science because it lumps together two completely different types of objects. So why should Mercury be considered a planet? While most planets in our solar system orbit almost on the same plane, this is not the case in other solar systems, where several giant exoplanets orbit one star all on different planes.

If we used the same logic on those systems, none of these objects could be considered planets. The comparison with the reclassification of asteroids in the 19th century, while often cited to support the IAU decision, is not really appropriate here. When these objects were discovered, none could be resolved into a disk by the telescopes of the time. It turns out that the first object discovered, Ceres, is spherical after all, and is a complex world that is geologically active and may have a subsurface ocean. Two other objects in the asteroid belt, Vesta and Pallas, are not quite spherical but are much more larger and more complex than the rest of the asteroids.

The Dawn mission showed Vesta to be layered into core, mantle, and crust, just like Earth. Others rightfully argue that Vesta and Pallas deserve their own category in between asteroid and dwarf planet. In the 19th century, all these objects appeared simply as points of light. None could be distinguished from any other, and no one knew anything about the compositions of these worlds. Now that we do know these things, it is clear that the demotion of Ceres was an error, as was the demotion of Vesta and Pallas. No scientist should decide what the public should say.

Let’s Get Serious About Ceres

For me Pluto is a planet and it will always be a planet. If Eris is the size of Pluto then for me Eris is also a planet. Scientists are sometimes hypocrites. The IAU is the governing body in charge of this so let them do what they think makes most sense for the science and live with it!

Lecture: Unveiling Dwarf Planet Ceres

If Pluto would have the mass of Jupiter, would it have cleared its orbit? Would you down degrade Jupiter as a planet when if it is at the distance of Pluto? Simply saying the ones in charge should be the ones deciding, not the peanut gallery. Either way, this is all semantic based rhetoric and however they go is the way it should be. The data is the determining factor in science, not a person or group of people. Here we go with the ad hominem attacks.

This is what people typically do when they do not have a credible response to an argument. Look at the Herzsprung-Russell classification system for stars. Our Sun is a G2 V yellow star. Stars are classed into subcategories of subcategories. Could it be because we are comfortable with the knowledge that there are billions of stars out there but have not yet grown accustomed to the fact that there are a also billions of planets, including possibly hundreds in our solar system? If we find hundreds of spherical objects in the Kuiper Belt, then yes, we have hundreds of planets.

Once we learn more about them, we will likely be able to distinguish their varying characteristics and create a classifications system with multiple subcategories. Those IAU members who voted in are NOT experts in this area, as most are not even planetary scientists but other types of astronomers. Planetary scientists offered to help the IAU create a sound planet definition, and their efforts were rebuffed. Similarly, we should not be asking scientists who do not study planets to define what a planet is. They then compounded their bad decision by absolutely refusing to revisit the discussion even when asked to do so by other scientists on multiple occasions.

It seems they want their decision to stand as the last word for all eternity. That is because the IAU definition specifically states a planet must orbit the Sun rather than a star. Luckily, there are triennial general assemblies and eventually dwarf planets will get their due. Our sun is a dwarf star and yet a star. Same with dwarf galaxies.

The shenanigans at the Prague GA are well-documented, as is the petition opposing the new definition signed by over planetary scientists. By the way, Matt you have a grammatical error in the first sentence of your article. Also, Matt, the latest science has Pluto as being larger than Eris.


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  • Naming of Astronomical Objects | IAU.

You can verify this with Bruno Sicardy or Alan Stern. However, New Horizons should settle this question for good on July 14th. Lastly, you might want to ask the co-discoverers of Eris besides Mike, viz. Filament A strand of cool gas suspended over the photosphere by magnetic fields , which appears dark as seen against the disk of the Sun.

Finder A small, wide-field telescope attached to a larger telescope. The finder is used to help point the larger telescope to the desired viewing location. Fireball An extremely bright meteor. Also known as bolides , fireballs can be several times brighter than the full Moon.

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Pluto and the Solar System | IAU

Some can even be accompanied by a sonic boom. Flare Star A faint red star that appears to change in brightness due to explosions on its surface. Galactic Halo The name given to the spherical region surrounding the center, or nucleus of a galaxy. Galactic Nucleus A tight concentration of stars and gas found at the innermost regions of a galaxy.

Astronomers now believe that massive black holes may exist in the center of many galaxies. Galaxy A large grouping of stars. Galaxies are found in a variety of sizes and shapes.

Our Solar System News

Our own Milky Way galaxy is spiral in shape and contains several billion stars. Some galaxies are so distant the their light takes millions of years to reach the Earth. They were discovered independently by Galileo Galilei and Simon Marius. Gamma-ray The highest energy, shortest wavelength form of electromagnetic radiation. Geosynchronous Orbit An orbit in which a satellite's orbital velocity is matched to the rotational velocity of the planet.

A spacecraft in geosynchronous orbit appears to hang motionless above one position of a planet's surface. These clouds have enough mass to produce thousands of stars and are frequently the sites of new star formation. Globular Cluster A tight, spherical grouping of hundreds of thousands of stars. Globular clusters are composed of older stars, and are usually found around the central regions of a galaxy.

Granulation A pattern of small cells that can be seen on the surface of the Sun. They are caused by the convective motions of the hot gases inside the Sun.