What is a planet?

After years of debate and controversy, the International Astronomical Union is finally going to “officially” define what a “planet” is.

It sounds odd that the astronomical community has never got around to doing this… but until recently, the need for an official description was not needed. Was it large enough to see in telescopes, forced spherical under its own weight, and was it orbiting the Sun in a non-cometary fashion? Then it was called a planet.

However, many objects found in the past few years have been the same size as Pluto, perhaps even larger, but these have not been designated “planets.” So the debate raged on… if you call these new objects “planets,” then the Sun certainly has tens of thousands of such objects orbiting it. If you refuse to bless these objects with the “planet” moniker, then Pluto must be demoted from its lofty position, and cast down to mingle with the lowly comets and asteroids hurtling through the inky blackness.

What will the definition be? We’ll find out later this summer. Stay tuned…


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1 Response to “What is a planet?”

  1. 1 - monkeyPi - Pingback on Aug 10th, 2006 at 9:12 pm

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An escapee from a government contractor’s test lab, the monkey lives in hiding, hacking away at the keyboard to bring you random thoughts, stories, news, and graphics. Depending on his mood, he may be informative, amusing, obnoxious, or inane.

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