Dwarf Planets Get Some Respect

I was reading space.com during lunch today. I was very happy to see my two favorite dwarf planets getting a little respect from the scientific community. (yeah, I am that much a geek.)

First, the top story of the day: Could Life on Earth Have Come From Ceres? By Lee Pullen, Astrobiology Magazine, posted: 05 March 2009 08:02 am ET

That’s right, our favorite resident of the asteroid belt getting a little attention. Sure, there is probably more water on that tiny little spec of a dwarf planet than on Earth so why shouldn’t we be postulating all sorts of groovy theories about what goes on there. I bet you a dollar* there are microbes in the mantle.

So then we scan further down the list of recent stories and we see this one: Pluto’s Atmosphere Warmer Than Thought By Clara Moskowitz, Staff Writer, posted: 04 March 2009 05:05 pm ET

Turns out our much maligned former ninth planet has a pretty cool atmosphere and that atmosphere is actually warmer than the surface of the planet. Not bad, eh? Sorta makes you want to take that IAU planetary definition and stuff it up someone’s icy core, don’t it? Yeah, that Eris dwarf planet doesn’t look quite so hot now, does it.

Sorry… I for some reason think these little dwarf planets are extra cool. Only because we all know the eight big planets all look down on them and act mean toward them just because they are small, or far away, or their orbit crosses Neptune’s or some shit like that. I love these guys. Ceres, Pluto, Makemake, Haumea, and even Eris who started the whole debate that got Pluto demoted. While I’m at it, let’s add Pluto’s moon Charon into this little astronomy love fest. Charon and Pluto are close enough in mass that the center point of their orbit is actually in the empty space between them. They aren’t a planet and a moon, they are a duel planetary system. Let’s see any other bodies in hydrostatic equilibrium pull off that trick. Damn straight!

See? There, I did it again. Sorry everyone.

* The dollar in question is of course an Internet Dollar as defined on the show South Park. In other words, if life exists in the water beneath the crust of Ceres I owe you nuttin. Thanks

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2 comments

  1. laurele · March 7, 2009

    Pluto is not a “former planet.” The IAU definition, adopted by only four percent of its members, most of whom are not planetary scientists, was rejected by hundreds of professional astronomers led by Dr. Alan Stern, Principal Investigator of NASA’s New Horizons mission to Pluto.One reason the IAU definition makes no sense is that it states that dwarf planets are not planets at all. That’s like saying a grizzly bear is not a bear. It’s also inconsistent with the use of the term “dwarf” in astronomy, where dwarf stars are still stars, and dwarf galaxies are still galaxies.The IAU definition also makes no sense because it classifies objects solely by where they are while ignoring what they are. If Earth were in Pluto’s orbit, according to the IAU definition, it would not be a planet either. A definition that takes the same object and makes it a planet in one location and not a planet in another is one that begs to be overturned.I agree that Pluto and Charon are a dual planetary system. However, the IAU definition makes no allowance for this, as neither planet in a binary system could be said to clear its orbit of the other!If you feel so inclined, visit http://www.dwarfplanetsrplanets2.com for contact information to email the IAU and its president, asking them to reopen this issue at their General Assembly in August.

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  2. laurele · March 7, 2009

    Pluto is not a “former planet.” The IAU definition, adopted by only four percent of its members, most of whom are not planetary scientists, was rejected by hundreds of professional astronomers led by Dr. Alan Stern, Principal Investigator of NASA’s New Horizons mission to Pluto.One reason the IAU definition makes no sense is that it states that dwarf planets are not planets at all. That’s like saying a grizzly bear is not a bear. It’s also inconsistent with the use of the term “dwarf” in astronomy, where dwarf stars are still stars, and dwarf galaxies are still galaxies.The IAU definition also makes no sense because it classifies objects solely by where they are while ignoring what they are. If Earth were in Pluto’s orbit, according to the IAU definition, it would not be a planet either. A definition that takes the same object and makes it a planet in one location and not a planet in another is one that begs to be overturned.I agree that Pluto and Charon are a dual planetary system. However, the IAU definition makes no allowance for this, as neither planet in a binary system could be said to clear its orbit of the other!If you feel so inclined, visit http://www.dwarfplanetsrplanets2.com for contact information to email the IAU and its president, asking them to reopen this issue at their General Assembly in August.

    Like

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