Draft Resolution Definition of a Planet August

Contemporary observations are changing our understanding of the Solar System, and it is important that our nomenclature for objects reflect our current understanding. This applies, in particular, to the designation planets. The word planet originally described wanderers that were known only as moving lights in the sky. Recent discoveries force us to create a new definition, which we can make using currently available scientific information. (Here we are not concerned with the upper boundary...

Dwarf planets

Mass (Earth 1) 0.00016 Equatorial diameter 606 miles (974.6 kilometers) Mean density (water 1) 2.1 Orbital distance from sun 2.55 to 2.99 AU Ceres year 4.6 Earth years Ceres day 9 hours Moons None Pluto Equatorial diameter 1,430 miles (2,302 kilometers) Mean density (water 1) 2.0 Orbital distance from sun 29.7 to 49.3 AU Pluto year 248 Earth years Pluto day 6.4 Earth days Moons Charon, Nix, and Hydra Makemake Diameter 800-1,200 miles (1,300-1,900 kilometers) Orbital distance from sun 38.5 to...

Notes

1 Alan Stern quoted in Paul Rincon, Pluto Vote 'Hijacked' in Revolt, BBC News, August 25, 2006, http news.bbc.co.uk 2 hi science nature 5283956.stm, accessed May 27, 2009. 2 Michael Brown, The Great Planet Debate Wasn't, Mike Brown's Planets, August 17, 2008, great-planet-debate-wasnt.html, accessed May 27, 2009. 3 Comments posted to Alan Boyle's blog, Cosmic Log, The Lighter Side of Pluto, August 24, 2006, http cosmiclog.msnbc.msn.com archive 2006 08 24 2410.aspx, accessed May 27, 2009. 4...

Books for General Audiences

The Crowded Universe The Search for Living Planets. New York Basic Books, 2009. Davies, John. Beyond Pluto Exploring the Outer Limits of the Solar System. Cambridge, UK Cambridge University Press, 2001. Jones, Tom, and Ellen Stofan. Planetology Unlocking the Secrets of the Solar System. Washington, DC National Geographic, 2008. Lemonick, Michael. The Georgian Star How William and Caroline Herschel Revolutionized Our Understanding of the Cosmos. New York W.W. Norton & Co., 2009....

The Meaning Ofa Moon

For almost fifty years, finding out anything at all about Pluto was devilishly difficult, but finding out that it had a moon took just two days. That's how much time astronomer James Christy set aside at the U.S. Naval Observatory in Washington to look through photographic plates showing Pluto's position among the stars at various times. The plates had been made at the Naval Observatory's astronomical facility in Flagstaff, not far from the Lowell Observatory. The pictures of Pluto on some of...

Pluto

How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference This book is printed on acid-free paper. Copyright 2010 by Alan Boyle. All rights reserved Published by John Wiley & Sons, Inc., Hoboken, New Jersey Published simultaneously in Canada Design by Forty-five Degree Design LLC No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, scanning, or otherwise, except as permitted under Section 107...

Betting On The Tenth Planet

By 2003, it seemed obvious that someone was going to find a world bigger than Pluto. Mike Brown was betting on it. Literally. The Caltech astronomer had five bottles of good champagne Veuve Clicquot riding on his bet with a fellow astronomer, Sabine Airieau. If an object more massive than Pluto was found beyond Neptune's orbit by the end of 2004, Brown would win the bet. If not, Airieau would get the champagne.1 If anyone was in a good position to find the planetary prize, it was Brown himself....

Info

He cosmos seemed so much simpler in ancient The word planet traces its origins to the Greek word for wanderer, but the underlying concept goes back much further. When the earliest humans looked up at the lights in the sky, it didn't take them long to notice that most of them formed unchanging patterns like the Big Dipper and the three-star belt of Orion. Other lights, however, changed their position relative to these fixed stars. The sun and the moon were the most obvious of these wanderers....

The Battle Of Prague

F there's still someone out there who thinks science and politics never mix, the story behind the Battle of Prague should change your mind. Some have cast the debate that took place in the Czech capital during the summer of 2006 as a battle against American scientists who wanted to keep the only planet discovered by an American on an unreasonably high pedestal. On the other side of the argument, there are those who suspect that the rest of the world wanted to see Pluto demoted to punish America...

There Goes The Neighborhood

I _ olden anniversaries are traditionally a time for celebration but for astronomer Brian Marsden, the golden anniversary of Pluto's discovery was a reminder of how much of a misfit the planet had become. Marsden, a British-born expert on celestial mechanics, was head of the Central Bureau for Astronomical Telegrams, the same office that had sent out the news of Pluto's discovery fifty years earlier. Since then, the bureau had been relocated from Copenhagen to Percival Lowell's old stomping...

Alien Plutos

What if a world as small as Pluto were found in another planetary system What if its orbit were as tangled up as those of the dwarf planets in our own solar system Alan Boss, for one, would be absolutely thrilled. We'd be happy to call it a planet candidate and just leave it at that, said the Carnegie Institution of Washington astronomer, who is a member of the International Astronomical Union committee focusing on alien planets and has served on the science team for NASA's Kepler...

The Great Planet Debate

For Alan Stern, the problem with Prague wasn't merely about what happened to Pluto it was also about what happened to the scientific process. For decades, the International Astronomical Union had worked by consensus, ruling on matters that already had been largely settled in the scientific community. The flap over Pluto and planethood was different, however, because the astronomical establishment had to deal with a basic question on a time scale that didn't fit the usual schedule for scientific...