Digital Diatribes

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Archive for the ‘Solar System’ Category

Et tu, Pluto?

Posted by The Diatribe Guy on June 11, 2008

What happens to runt planets

Well, now they’ve gone and done it. As if it wasn’t bad enough that I have to reprogram my brain with the idea that Pluto isn’t actually a planet, the powers at be have given the little runt a category.

The International Astronomical Union has decided on the term plutoid as a name for dwarf planets like Pluto at a meeting of its Executive Committee in Oslo.

Almost two years after the International Astronomical Union (IAU) General Assembly introduced the category of dwarf planets, the IAU, as promised, has decided on a name for transneptunian dwarf planets similar to Pluto. The name plutoid was proposed by the members of the IAU Committee on Small Body Nomenclature (CSBN), accepted by the Board of Division III, by the IAU Working Group for Planetary System Nomenclature (WGPSN) and approved by the IAU Executive Committee at its recent meeting in Oslo, Norway.

A couple things stand out about that quote from the article. First, it’s an obvious attempt to get in Pluto’s good graces, by using the entire name of this little guy and lumping on “id” at the end. Need I get into the psychology of “id?” I thought so.

Second, there is actually some group that calls themselves the “Committee on Small Body Nomenclature?” Only scientists could dream that one up. And as if that’s not good enough, there’s yet another committee: “Working Group for Planetary System Nomenclature.” How does a guy go about getting on one of these committees?

But, just when you thought scientists have the ability to define things in a way that people can understand them, rather than as an exercise of self-aggrandizement to see how fancy they can make something sound, we get the definition of a “plutoid.” Here it is:

Plutoids are celestial bodies in orbit around the Sun at a distance greater than that of Neptune that have sufficient mass for their self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces so that they assume a hydrostatic equilibrium shape, and that have not cleared the neighbourhood around their orbit.

Please. Get the “u” out of “neighbourhood” you bunch of elitists. And, in case anyone is wondering, “A hydrostatitic equilibrium shape” basically means spherical. So, this really just says it’s something past Neptune that’s a ball that won’t bounce into rocks and stuff.

Call me old school, but I still kind of like the little guy being a planet. And what’s it hurt, anyway?


Posted in Astronomy, Current Events, News, Pluto, Plutoids, Science, Solar System, Space | 9 Comments »