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About laurele

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    Highland Park, NJ, USA
  1. The IAU was not forced to do anything, and Pluto is not a minor planet. Only four percent of the IAU voted on this, and most are not planetary scientists. Their decision was immediately opposed in a formal petition by hundreds of professional astronomers led by Dr. Alan Stern, Principal Investigator of NASA’s New Horizons mission to Pluto. Stern and like-minded scientists favor a broader planet definition that includes any non-self-luminous spheroidal body in orbit around a star. The spherical part is important because objects become spherical when they attain a state known as hydrostatic equilibrium, meaning they are large enough for their own gravity to pull them into a round shape. This is a characteristic of planets and not of shapeless asteroids and Kuiper Belt Objects. Pluto meets this criterion and is therefore a planet. Under this definition, our solar system has 13 planets: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Ceres, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto, Haumea, Makemake, and Eris.
  2. But Mercury is 'nt so obviously something else. Pluto is obviously a Kuiper object. Scientists think that pluto is from the kuiper belt. There is no reason an object cannot be both a Kuiper Belt Object and a planet. Pluto, Eris, and all the other KBOs that have attained hydrostatic equilibrium would fall into both categories. I don't have kids, but I am making sure to teach my nephews (ages four and one) that Pluto is definitely a planet.
  3. You're not quite right about Pluto. A tiny number--four percent--of the IAU made a highly controversial decision to demote Pluto to a category that makes no linguistic sense (they claim a "dwarf planet" is not a planet at all). They have been challenged by over 300 professional astronomers led by Dr. Alan Stern, Prinicipal Investigator of NASA's New Horizons mission to Pluto, all of whom reject the new planet definition. I'm glad you call Pluto a planet, but please don't assume most people view it as a non-entity. There is a good chance the IAU decision will be reversed in 2009.
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