Tuesday, June 10, 2008

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Pluto's years-long identity crisis just got more complex today.
The International Astronomical Union has decided on the term "plutoid" as a name for Pluto and other objects that just two years ago were redefined as "dwarf planets."
The surprise decision is unlikely to stem ongoing controversy and confusion, astronomers say.
concerns of many astronomers worldwide, the IAU's decision, at a meeting of its Executive Committee in Oslo, comes almost two years after it stripped Pluto of its planethood and introduced the term "dwarf planets" for Pluto and other small round objects that often travel highly elliptical paths around the sun in the far reaches of the solar system.
"Most of the people in astronomy and planetary science community had no idea this was going to come out," said Hal Weaver of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. Weaver called the process that produced the new definition "sort of outdated, outmoded, archaic."
"In this day and age of transparency and mass communication, it seems a bit strange that such an important pronouncement would come out with so few people knowing about it, and, apparently, with no serious attempt to vet this with more people in the community," Weaver said.
A meeting in August at the Applied Physics Laboratory is slated to debate the entire topic of defining planets. Meanwhile, other astronomers said the new definition needed more definition or that it might simply not be used.
"This seems like an unattractive term and an unnecessary one to me," said David Morrison, an astronomer at NASA's Ames Research Center who, in 2006, said the IAU's actions on Pluto have created
major rifts among astronomers.

Here's a track that seems to stay relevent even now
a link's posted after the jump...
Phantom Planet - Carlifornia

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