Monday, January 5, 2009
Astronomers to fight for ‘planet’ Pluto in 2009
London: This 2009, a group of astronomers is planning to overturn the ruling, which says that Pluto is not the ninth planet of our solar systm.
In August 2006,the International
Astronomical Union (IAU), ruled that there are no longer nine planets in the Solar System, and downgraded Pluto to the lowly status of a “dwarf planet”.
But in 2009, Mark Sykes, director of the Planetary Science Institute in the US – along with like-minded colleagues – hope to get the ruling overturned at the next meeting of the IAU, to be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in August.
“To me and others like me, Pluto
remains a planet and there are still nine planets in the Solar System,” Dr Sykes said. “The one thing that was particularly bad about the IAU’s decision is that it has tried to impose its view on the rest of us.”
The row over Pluto’s downgrading has been simmering since the astronomy organisation voted to relegate it in August 2006 in Prague.
It was agreed at the last vote of that conference – after many scientists had left.
“The IAU definition is so flawed on so many levels,” said Alan Stern, principal investigator on a NASA mission, New Horizons.
“It’s an awful definition; it’s sloppy science and it would never pass peer review,” he added.
The IAU coined the term ‘plutoid’ for objects like Pluto, which, while massive enough to form a near-spherical shape, do not have the gravitational influence to clear the neighbourhood around their orbit of other objects.
But,Dr Sykes disagrees.
“Pluto is far more like Earth than Earth is like Jupiter.Jupiter is a gas planet. It doesn’t even have a surface or topography, unlike Pluto,” he said.
“The argument over Pluto is a demonstration that scientists can disagree and that science is not some dictatorial project – it’s dynamic,” he added.