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August 24, 2006

The Lost Planet

While you slept last night, the solar system lost a planet.

PRAGUE, Czech Republic (AP) - Leading astronomers declared Thursday that Pluto is no longer a planet under historic new guidelines that downsize the solar system from nine planets to eight.

After a tumultuous week of clashing over the essence of the cosmos, the International Astronomical Union stripped Pluto of the planetary status it has held since its discovery in 1930. The new definition of what is - and isn't - a planet fills a centuries-old black hole for scientists who have labored since Copernicus without one.

Will Mickey Mouse's dog have to be renamed "Neptune"?

Posted by Doug at August 24, 2006 01:08 PM

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Isn't Neptune also disqualified, then, because its orbit overlaps with Pluto's? The third criterion for planethood is that it "has cleared the neighbourhood around its orbit."

Posted by: Barry at August 24, 2006 01:38 PM

Y'know, I wondered about that, too. I think that Neptune may get a pass for having the same orbital plane as the other 7. There may be other criteria such that one dwarf polluting a neighbor's orbit doesn't necessarily disqualify the neighbor.

Thus Neptune doesn't have to see Pluto getting nearer and thinking, "There goes the neighborhood."

Posted by: Doug Payton at August 24, 2006 02:35 PM