July 30, 2005

Renovation Adds New 10th Planet

While you were going about your business, the folks in charge have renovated the solar system, adding a nice, fresh 10th planet.

Astronomers have found a tenth planet, larger than Pluto and nearly three times farther from the sun as Pluto is today.

So, now if you really want to get away, you have a place to go without leaving the comfy confines of your familiar solar system. Americans know what I'm talking about.

Don't let the image above fool you -- there are not yet any pictures of this new planet.

Posted by James at July 30, 2005 1:25 PM
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That is truly cool.

Posted by: Chuck S. at July 31, 2005 2:41 AM

Actually, if you believe Christine Lavin, we're only up to nine planets now:


Posted by: Ailsa at August 1, 2005 2:03 PM

Actually we're only at 8. Neither Pluto nor this new planet are actually planets (OK there's a major debate about that). I think they've left Pluto a planet mainly because they don't want to hurt it's feelings.

Posted by: B.O.B.(bob) at August 1, 2005 3:06 PM

Yeah, they had a chance to demote it but they didn't do it. So they sorta hafta accept this one, unless they want to disqualify it for having a weird orbit (except Pluto has a weird orbit also).

Posted by: Julie at August 1, 2005 3:36 PM

Of course, naming it "Xena" wll surely convince the rest of the scientific community of its significance.

Posted by: ThirdMate at August 2, 2005 7:34 AM

In reading the article, I saw that this planet/non-planet (don't want to start any fights) is part of the Kuiper belt.

I then started thinking of a comic I'm reading, "Y the Last Man," which I mistakenly thought for a moment featured a secret band called the Kuiper Ring. Nope, I was having a brain fart. It's the Culper Ring.

According to the Encyclopedia Brittanica Online, the Culper Ring was a "group that spied for George Washington during the American Revolution. Included in the group were Benjamin Tallmadge, Abraham Woodhull, and Robert Townsend. The group worked throughout the war, mainly in the New York and New England area. The British never learned of the network, and few Americans knew of it."


More on "Y the Last Man" here:



Posted by: Patti M. at August 2, 2005 10:27 AM

Pluto is a planet because Tombaugh called it one when he discovered it and everbody agreed with him before they knew better. It appears to be spherical, it has a moon, and it appears to have a limited atmosphere. In many ways it is like a planet.

But it is quite small, only 1400 miles in diameter... the jovian moon Ganymede is bigger than Pluto. And it has a fooky elongated orbit like many trans-neptunian objects, and is out of the plane of the more traditionally recognized planets. Its density suggests it is a mix of rock and ice (more rock than ice).

So is Pluto just a stray comet, or a Kuiper Belt object perturbed by the orbit of Neptune into its current strange orbit?

Nobody seems to agree on what makes a planet a planet. The classification is built up out of old, like language itself, and like language the concept of a "planet" is therefore full of contradictions.

If pluto and ganymede switched places, ganymede would be a planet and pluto would be a moon. If Ganymede and Earth were to switch places, would Earth no longer be a planet? Would it suddenly be a moon? I don't believe it for a minute. If Neptune were in orbit around Jupiter we'd call it a double-planet.

What about the asteroid Ceres? It's *almost* spherical, a little flattened out, and a bit smaller than Pluto. If pluto is a planet, why not Ceres?

The planetary classification is arbitrary, and when they straighten it out I suspect Pluto will retain "honorary" planetary status whether or not it fits the planetary bill, out of respect and tribute to Clyde Tombaugh.

Furthermore, does it really matter? It comes down to human perception. Which on the grand scale of the universe, matters very little. Pluto will still be a stark and beautiful world orbitting our sun long after we are dust. And whether we called it a planet or a comet or a kuiper object or even a baloney sandwich won't matter one whit.

I for one, with regard to Pluto, hope only for the success of the New Horizons probe scheduled to arrive there in 2015. I hope I am alive then. I would really like to see pictures of Pluto and Charon up close.


Posted by: Chuck S. at August 2, 2005 1:36 PM

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