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Wednesday, August 16th 2006

Bud Selig Becomes An Astronomer

Whoa, that was a stretch of an analogy, but a new decision on the fate of Pluto, by the IAU, is about as satisfactory as this fiasco.

Under the new definition of what the devil a planet is, that is up for a vote, Pluto would be a planet but so would a lot of other junk out there in the Solar System.

[T]he solar system will have 12: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Ceres (it’s currently classified as an asteroid, although it was considered a planet when it was found in 1801), Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto, Charon and 2003 UB313

But…wait a minute. Charon is a moon of Pluto, which should disqualify it. But no, it gets in under a loophole. Every moon and its planet orbit each other, technically, swinging mutually around a common center of gravity. In every case but this, though, that center of gravity is within, though not at the very center of, the planet. Charon and Pluto’s center of gravity is much closer to Pluto, but still out in space. Ergo, says the IAU, it’s a double planet.

That Talmudic distinction is already driving astronomers nutty, as is the fact that plenty of other objects, already discovered in the wide reaches out past Pluto, should presumably also qualify, but haven’t made the list. Not to worry, says the IAU. The list of 12 is expected to grow.

Every time I memorize something new it pushes something else out of my brain. As well, UB313 doens’t exactly fit into a mnemonic…

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