Neptune Probe (1998)
Ganymede Probe (1998)
The distant, ice-covered world is no longer a true planet, according to a new definition of the term voted on by scientists today [8-24-06].
"Whoa! Pluto's dead," said astronomer Mike Brown, of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, as he watched a Webcast of the vote. "There are finally, officially, eight planets in the solar system."
In a move that's already generating controversy and will force textbooks to be rewritten, Pluto will now be dubbed a dwarf planet.
But it's no longer part of an exclusive club, since there are more than 40 of these dwarfs, including the large asteroid Ceres and 2003 UB313, nicknamed Xena -- a distant object slightly larger than Pluto discovered by Brown last year.
Pluto has been demoted because it does not dominate its neighborhood. Charon, its large "moon," is only about half the size of Pluto, while all the true planets are far larger than their moons.
In addition, bodies that dominate their neighborhoods, "sweep up" asteroids, comets, and other debris, clearing a path along their orbits. By contrast, Pluto's orbit is somewhat untidy.
Disneyologists argue that the Gang already includes a male dog, Goofy, who, like the other members, can walk and talk. Including a non-speaking quadrupedal character like Pluto would necessitate the inclusion of other insufficiently anthropomorphized animals such as background cats, birds, and humorous bees.
Pluto's downsizing will likely leave some astronomers scurrying to pawn their telescopes as their employment orbit decays faster than Hubble's. One victim will be 93-year-old Patricia Tombaugh, widow of Clyde Tombaugh, Pluto's discoverer. Her reaction, according to MSNBC's Cosmic Log:
"I don't know just how you handle it. It kind of sounds like I just lost my job," she told AP from Las Cruces, N.M. "But I understand science is not something that just sits there. It goes on. Clyde finally said before he died, 'It's there. Whatever it is. It is there.'"
There, huh. Now beat it. Half lights out, pal. We don't want any. Sign up your planetary has-been behind for the
no-flyby no-call (us-we-call-you) list.
Meanwhile, in an Blog with a View exclusive, yr blogger -- through my unnamed source I'll call "Cosmic Dustball" -- was able to obtain this exclusive webcam footage of some Plutonian freedom fighters reacting to the news of their planet's solar system washout:
Mutiny on Pluto (2003)
We want to be a world and we want it now!!