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Post by Chicago Astronomer Joe on Aug 21, 2006 14:45:24 GMT -6
The IAU has proposed a definition which would add hundreds of new planets to our solar system
Dr. Brown, ( the man who discovered Planet X, currently called Xena), says there are currently 44 other objects that would fit the proposed definition of a planet in our solar system. In fact, he thinks we would eventually have to call several hundred objects a planet. He also believes our moon should be called a planet as well.
From the time of the announcement of the discovery of 2003 UB313 in late July 2005, the "planetary" status of 2003 UB313 and of Pluto have been in limbo. The International Astronomical Union (IAU), the group charged with classifying objects in space, has just released a proposed definition and will hold a vote on this proposal on August 24th.
Post by Chicago Astronomer Joe on Aug 21, 2006 15:57:17 GMT -6
Astronomer upset at new planet proposal
Few planet hunters stand to gain as much as Michael Brown if our solar system balloons to 12 planets under a new definition. He's spotted more than a dozen objects that might qualify as planets. So why is he upset? "When I was a kid, planets were special," he said. "This definition takes the magic out of the solar system."
It was Brown's discovery of an icy rock bigger than Pluto that helped lead astronomers
On his Web site, the California Institute of Technology astronomer muses about why Pluto has kept its title for so long: "I think that astronomers are as sentimental as the rest of the world and couldn't stomach removing Pluto. Probably they also couldn't stomach the criticism that would follow."
Last week, a high-ranking panel from the International Astronomical Union proposed that the solar systemscientific
Under the proposed definition, an object is a planet if it is at least 500 miles in diameter, orbits the sun, and has a mass at least about one-12,000th that of Earth.
Pluto would keep its planethood while three other bodies would be added, including Pluto's moon Charon, the asteroid
Brown said the proposal - that a planet is basically anything round orbiting the sun - is too broad and amounts to "No Ice Ball Left Behind," cheapening the solar system.
He worries that by the time his daughter, Lilah, now 13 months, is old enough to memorize the planets, there could be hundreds.
In scientific circles, Brown is a star known for his outspokenness. But vocal as he is, he is not a member of the professional astronomers' group and will be shut out of Thursday's vote on the proposal.
"I feel like an outsider. It's an odd situation," said the 41-year-old, who was named one of Time Magazine's 100 Influential People of 2006.
Still, he is the one whose discovery helped initiate the process.
"Mike deserves a lot of credit for bringing this question to the forefront," said Alan Boss, an astrophysicist at the Carnegie Institution in Washington, D.C.
Brown figured there must be something larger than Pluto in the frozen fringes of the solar system. He joined Caltech's faculty in 1997 and quickly gained a reputation as the man who had a knack for spotting objects with a telescope.
When Brown spied Xena in 2003, he didn't think much of it. But when he took a second look at images last year, he noticed something strange - Xena was too big and too bright. He calculated its size from its brightness and had a eureka moment: Xena was larger than Pluto.
The first thing Brown did, he recalls, was phone his wife, who replied: "That's nice, honey. Can you pick up some milk on your way home?"
By Brown's own count, 14 of his discoveries besides Xena are in the running for planethood. That could make Brown the most prolific planet hunter.
But he supports an eight-planet solar system, although he wouldn't mind if Xena was added as the 10th planet.
"When people finally realize the number of planets is going to be much bigger, they'll shake their heads and say 'Astronomers are crazy.'" Brown said.