Thursday, August 24, 2006

It's gone! Pluto is only an errant iceball, not a planet.

Suzanne Nossel at Political Animal (Kevin Drum is vacationing at the Science Fiction Convention at Anaheim) spreads the bad news.
"...the new rules for a planet: "a celestial body that is in orbit around the sun, has sufficient mass for its self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces so that it assumes a ... nearly round shape, and has cleared the neighborhood around its orbit."

Pluto is automatically disqualified because its oblong orbit overlaps with Neptune's.

Instead, it will be reclassified in a new category of "dwarf planets," similar to what long have been termed "minor planets." The definition also lays out a third class of lesser objects that orbit the sun -- "small solar system bodies," a term that will apply to numerous asteroids, comets and other natural satellites."
[Underlining by RB]
According to CNN the new rule was accepted to general applause by the the International Astronomical Union.

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