Pluto loses planet status
Thursday, August 24, 2006
Today,have endorsed a proposal about the . As a consequence, our solar system now counts only 8 . They are , , , , , , , and . no longer meets the criteria and loses its planet status, but becomes the prototype of a distinct class of .
and also have been recognised as dwarf planets. , which was previously in the run for promotion, did not meet the final criteria for a dwarf planet.
Some 2500 astronomers from over 75 countries gathered this week inat the Congress of the (IAU) to decide on several issues like a formal definition of a planet. Previously, there was no definition and with the discovery of new objects beyond Pluto there was much need for a clear criterion. The scientists also discussed new research findings in their field.
Louis Friedman, the executive director of the Planetary Society in California said: "The classification doesn't matter. Pluto — and all Solar System objects — are mysterious and exciting new worlds that need to be explored and better understood."
The final draft states: "A planet is a celestial body that
- is in orbit around the
- has sufficient mass for its self- to overcome so that it assumes a (nearly round) shape
- has around its orbit.
- A dwarf planet is 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 hydrostatic equilibrium (nearly round) shape,
- has not cleared the neighbourhood around its orbit,
- is not a .
- All other objects except satellites orbiting the Sun shall be referred to collectively as Small Solar-System Bodies."
Pluto did not meet one of the criteria for planet: itsis highly , causing it to overlap with Neptune's. The IAU has a dozen other objects similar to Pluto on its "watchlist" and is expected to announce new dwarf planets in the coming months and years.
Ever since its discovery by Americanin 1930, Pluto has been considered a planet, though its status has been questioned many times after it was discovered to be far less massive than earlier calculations suggested, and because of its many other eccentricities. As a consequence of the vote, many textbooks, encyclopedias and other sources will need rewriting.
- Press Release: "IAU 2006 General Assembly: Result of the IAU Resolution votes" — IAU, August 24, 2006
- "Pluto loses status as a planet" — , August 23, 2006
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