back to article Pluto is more alive than Mars, huff physicists who are still not over dwarf planet's demotion

The drama surrounding Pluto’s planetary status just won’t die. A bunch of physicists are still fired up over the International Astronomical Union’s (IAU) decision to demote Pluto from being a fully fledged planet to a mere dwarf world in 2006. Pluto hovers on the edge of our Solar System, mixing it up with bits of icy debris …

  1. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    Stop

    It's a big round ball wizzing round the sun innit?

    The IAU can say what they like, but it still is a perfect fit for a planet to me, so I'll call it one. Funny that, everyone I know seems to think the same way.

    1. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: It's a big round ball wizzing round the sun innit?

      Since Pluto crosses Neptune's orbit presumably they will demote that as it hasn't cleared its neighbourhood.

      1. TVU Silver badge

        Re: It's a big round ball wizzing round the sun innit?

        "Since Pluto crosses Neptune's orbit presumably they will demote that as it hasn't cleared its neighbourhood"

        Any definition of a planet is going to be arbitrary in some way or other. Personally, I'd be happy with a ten planet solar system with the substantive worlds of Pluto and Eris being upgraded to full planet status.

        I'd draw the line for planet status at 10^22 kg mass to include Pluto and Eris but exclude all the significantly less massive bodies like Makemake, Haumea, Sedna, etc.

        1. jmch Silver badge

          Re: It's a big round ball wizzing round the sun innit?

          "I'd draw the line for planet status at 10^22 kg mass..."

          More or less what the prof is proposing is 'enough mass that gravity pulls it into a spherical shape' without having to define the exact mass (the exact threshold of which might become a bone of contention).

      2. Ken Hagan Gold badge

        Re: It's a big round ball wizzing round the sun innit?

        Pluto and Neptune are in a resonant relationship, so they don't actually ever cross each others' orbits. That's kind of why Pluto is there.

      3. MrZoolook

        Re: It's a big round ball wizzing round the sun innit?

        Pluto's orbit is so far off the ecliptic plane, that it goes nowhere near Neptune's orbital path. It is correct, however, to say that it does approach the sun nearer than Neptune, because its orbit is so elliptical. This is in common with comets, as much as anything else.

    2. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Headmaster

      Re: It's a big round ball wizzing round the sun innit?

      The IAU needs to *FEEL* important, so they wielded power and demoted Pluto. I guess it was being a pain in 'Uranus' or something. So they're being like 'grammar nazis' (see icon) about it.

      OBVIOUSLY way too much time on their hands... [are they being PAID for that?]

    3. cd

      Re: It's a big round ball wizzing round the sun innit?

      I feel the same way about this as I feel about the DSM boffins deciding to incorporate Aspberger's into a "spectrum".

    4. DropBear Silver badge

      Re: It's a big round ball wizzing round the sun innit?

      No worries, in the reality I live in, Pluto _IS_ a planet. And I really don't care how many people insist to live in the other one where it's not.

  2. Vulch

    Active geology

    Io has formed itself into a sphere and appears to be the most geologically active "planet" in the Solar System with Titan not far behind. Be interesting to find out how many of the rereclassifiers consider Cruithne to be a moon of Earth...

    1. Will Godfrey Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: Active geology

      OK... but only if you then call Saturn and Jupiter suns

      {edit}

      Hmm, that would make us a tri-solar system I think!

    2. GrumpenKraut Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Active geology

      Stuff I learned in El Reg's comment section: Cruithne. Thanks!

    3. rg287

      Re: Active geology

      Io has formed itself into a sphere and appears to be the most geologically active "planet" in the Solar System with Titan not far behind. Be interesting to find out how many of the rereclassifiers consider Cruithne to be a moon of Earth...

      Our Moon has also formed itself into a sphere, despite being largely inert. Io and Titan orbit Jupiter and Saturn. Cruithne orbits the Sun in a standard (albeit highly eccentric) elliptical orbit that happens to resonate with Earth's orbit in an interesting way.

      Io and Titan are therefore Moons. Large and interesting moons to be sure. But moons nonetheless.

      Cruithne cannot be considered a Moon of anything other than the Sun (which earns it an asteroid/Minor Planet designation).

  3. Chairman of the Bored Silver badge
    Joke

    I really feel for Pluto...

    As I age my hair get thinner and the mass of the ass...? Well, still increasing. But I still cannot clear out all the straphangers and yes men out of my division...

  4. Gene Cash Silver badge
    Headmaster

    Not University of Florida

    Philip Metzger is with University of Central Florida - much smarter boffins!

    1. cray74 Silver badge

      Re: Not University of Florida

      University of Central Florida - much smarter boffins!

      UCF's professors of astronomy might be smarter. My experience with the engineering interns of UCF and UF is that University of Florida students need less remedial training and hand holding to get started in the work place. UCF just seems to leave out little details in lab work, team work, and technical communications that UF addresses.

  5. Rich 11 Silver badge

    "The only planet that has more complex geology is the Earth."

    A lawyer would say that only the Earth has a complex geology. Or indeed any sort of geology.

    1. Will Godfrey Silver badge
      Happy

      Only if paid up-front for their opinion

      1. PhilipN Silver badge

        Affronted lawyer here

        I do not get paid for an opinion. I get paid for my expertise in formulating an opinion which suits the party paying. And as those statements prove I can lie for free.

        And allow me to introduce my assistant, Miss Nomer. Her opinion is that Earth is not a “planet” because it does not wander. The term derives, I think, from the Ancient Greeks, feet planted firmly on Plane... oops Ecosphere Earth from which vantage point all other components of the Solar System wandered across the sky and ergo were planets.

  6. ravenviz Silver badge

    Maybe the word planet should be removed from IAU definitions, they come up with their own terms, and everyone else just call Pluto a planet.

    1. Nick Kew Silver badge
      IT Angle

      Steady on! What if our elected rulers notice, and start arguing about plexit, or getting their knickers in a twist over definitions of antiplanetism?

  7. I3N
    Angel

    To Hades with all of them ...

    Planet Laika ... support the effort! ... even sounds better!

  8. John Savard Silver badge

    Confused

    I'm sure that people stopped listing Ceres, Juno, Pallas, and Vesta among the planets of the solar system long before 1957. All asteroids are still also called by the name "minor planets", thus their orbits are listed in documents called the "minor planet circulars", but the Solar System had nine planets, not thirteen, after Pluto was discovered.

    Pluto got demoted for the same basic reason as Ceres and company - there were too many others just about like it, starting with Eris. I'd prefer Pluto to stay a planet, but I really can't come up with a convincing argument against this brute fact. If planets aren't clearly bigger and more prominent than non-planets, the term loses its meaning, and if there are hundreds or thousands of planets, that's a useless situation too.

    1. elgarak1

      Re: Confused

      That's no excuse for having an ambiguous and sloppy definition just so one has a small list of planets for kids to learn.

      How would you extend that definition on exo-planets? Say, in a solar system so young that none of its planets has yet cleared its orbit?

      I'm fine with calling Pluto, Charon, Ceres, Juno, Pallas etc. planets. You can then further divide 'planets' into 'major' (our standard eight) and 'minor' (everything else).

    2. aks

      Re: Confused

      Don't forget that Pluto was discovered by an American. Losing "planet" status meant loss of face.

      Since it is about one sixth of the mass of the Moon and 0.2% of the earth, it's not a major planet. Labelling Pluto, Eris etc as minor or dwarf planets, or "plutoids" seems a fair compromise.

    3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: Confused

      "If planets aren't clearly bigger and more prominent than non-planets, the term loses its meaning, and if there are hundreds or thousands of planets, that's a useless situation too."

      Maybe we need to reintroduce "planetesimal" into common usage?

      1. ravenviz Silver badge

        Re: Confused

        Thatmal ismal a bit mof a mouthfmal.

  9. Herby Silver badge
    Joke

    Is...

    Earth a planet? With some thinking that it is all flat, it might not qualify.

    Boggles the mind...

    1. fishman

      Re: Is...

      Earth is a planet. Whether there is intelligent life on Earth is up for debate.

  10. Alan Mackenzie

    Stop this playground spat!

    Pluto is whatever it is regardless of whether one calls it a planet or a dwarf planet or anything else. Who really cares? It's a unique and fascinating object. So, all you astronomers, get out there, study and explore it!

    1. Elmer Phud Silver badge

      Re: Stop this playground spat!

      ALL planets are FLAT!

      You 'round worlders' are always trying to fool us with fake topography!

      FFS! doesn't the Turtle and the four elephants give the game away?

  11. Peter Clarke 1
    Thumb Up

    Planet Expressed

    Classification to a planet will be good news for everyone. In the meantime, when will Uranus be renamed Urectum??

    Thumbs up for the Futurama reference

  12. Pascal Monett Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    "no planet clears its orbit"

    Go tell that to Jupiter.

    And using stuff from before the 60s to justify opposition to today's rules is just childish.

    Pluto is Kuiper Belt Object. Get over it and use your time to study it.

    1. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

      Re: "no planet clears its orbit"

      Before you "tell that to Jupiter", have a word with 884 Priamus, 624 Hektor and 3317 Paris and their opponents 1404 Ajax, 588 Achilles and 1647 Menelaus.

      That said, I agree there's a difference between having camps of rocks at your Lagrange points and having NEPTUNE in your orbit. And while focusing on hydrostatic is interesting, plenty of moons are in hydrostatic equilibrium.

  13. BitEagle

    It's not just astrophysicists...

    I used to work with someone who still claims that Pick is a post-relational database...

  14. Terry 6 Silver badge

    Get over it???

    As soon as I see those words I recognise someone who hasn't got an argument. It's the logical equivalent of "Yah Boo sucks to you!"

    Go ahead, downvote me.

    1. Ledswinger Silver badge

      Re: Get over it???

      Go ahead, downvote me.

      There you go, job's a good 'un.

      If you reciprocate that will (at the time of writing) be my 9,999 downvote. After that, all I can say to other is be careful not to be trampled in the rush to bag the golden 10,000th downvote, which apparently confers a free lifetime subscription to the Register.

      1. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Re: Get over it???

        I didn't give you either of those two dvs. Done by the time I got here - but they still put you over the line. :-) Funnily enough I only got 2 dvs, at the time of writing. If one was yours the only other was probably the "Get over it"er.

        1. Ledswinger Silver badge

          Re: Get over it???

          Done by the time I got here - but they still put you over the line.

          Thank you!

          Somewhere else I've collected another 2 in the meanwhile, so I'm now running an all time total of 10,006 downvotes. Onwards to 100,000!

  15. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge

    Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune, Uranus

    The rest are just rocky debris.

    1. arctic_haze Silver badge

      Re: Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune, Uranus

      That's why some people call them giant planets.

  16. VinceH Silver badge
    Coat

    "and we know it has an atmosphere containing organic compounds and five moons."

    I'm not entirely sure that's true - I suspect its five moons are beyond its atmosphere.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    For the love of Pluto..give us back our little planet.

    Go Pluto!! Seriously Pluto is a planet and it will remain a planet to all that love it. I'll say the IAU picked on the little guy cause they have size issues. Pluto is bigger than them all and some. I can smell the jealousy or someone was bored and want it to leave their mark as a planet killer. (not that I'm into constipated conspiracy theories but I found it strange the way they demoted our favorite small planet. ) : )

  18. GrumpenKraut Silver badge
    Angel

    This comment section needs a shovel.

    Because we need a proper debate whether Pluto is a planet.

    1. VikiAi
      Happy

      Re: This comment section needs a shovel.

      One debate, as requested:

      1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

        Re: This comment section needs a shovel.

        Obligatory xkcd.

  19. Shane Lusby

    Meh

    Real life is messy. Whatever definition you decide on is either gong to arbirarily chop pluto off the list or add some other bodies onto the list. Maybe harness the righteous anger and change the definition to include 'bodies humans live on' and see if the pissy people will start funding colonization programs for all their favorite former planets?

  20. Daniel Garcia 2

    I have the feeling that if we had kept the Babylonian tradition of using base 60 (beyond the current use to define time units ratio), we would not be having this conversation, not at least until the 50ish Kuiper belt spheroid was cataloged.

  21. Potemkine! Silver badge

    Space nationalism

    A bunch of physicists are still fired up over the International Astronomical Union’s (IAU) decision to demote Pluto

    Pluto being a planet again seems to be an American preoccupation only, maybe because it was discovered by an American astronomer? Plutp's classification seems to be more a question of national pride than a physical consideration.

    1. phuzz Silver badge
      Boffin

      Re: Space nationalism

      Anecdotally I don't know any UK physicists who cared much either way, and it does seem that most of the people who really really care are from the US.

      I don't get the fuss, whatever it's called it's still an interesting lump of rock.

  22. bazza Silver badge

    Sigh?

    It would be a pity if the only thing the general public remembered about the New Horizons mission was that Pluto got reinstated as a planet because of it. I'd prefer them to remember it for the vast increase in our knowledge that it's brought about. Though obviously Pluto is a planet.

    In my own opinion (and I'm not connected to the endeavour in any way whatsoever, so it is at least an honest opinion), New Horizons is way up there near the very top of accomplishments by the planet / moon / asteroid / comet botherers. To pull off such a info haul with a single opportunity was pretty spectacular. And there's more to come! Admittedly the top of that list is a crowded place to be placed in...

  23. The_H

    New proposed classification system

    Here goes:

    Mars class planets: things you can land on

    Jupiter class planets: thing that are clearly planets but which you can't land on

    Pluto class planets: things too small to be planets but look like planets and are fascinating in their own right

    Earth class planets: things you can land on but wish you hadn't once you meet the inhabitants

    Space debris: everything else

    (Inspired by Miles Kington's "Nature made ridiculously simple")

  24. 0laf Silver badge
    Holmes

    Eris is bigger than Pluto anyway

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Eris is bigger than Pluto anyway

      Comments like that will lead to Eris envy

  25. Champ

    Surprised no one has posted the XKCD link yet

    ...so here it is

    https://xkcd.com/473/

  26. Pete4000uk

    In this day and age

    Surly its up to Pluto to decide what it identifies as?

  27. Babbit55

    I am still gutted by this declassification, I still remember the old phonetic for remember the planets, I have also taught this to my Son

    My (Mercury) Very (Venus) Easy (Earth) Method (Mars) Just (Jupiter) Speeds (Saturn) Up (Uranus) Naming (Neptune) Planets (Pluto)

    Doesn't work without good ole Pluto!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I still remember the old phonetic

      I think you mean mnemonic

      1. Babbit55

        Yes, yes i do.

  28. 89724102172714182892114I7551670349743096734346773478647892349863592355648544996312855148587659264921

    You don't want Pluto in Uranus

  29. ForthIsNotDead Silver badge
    Trollface

    All planets are plate-shaped.

    I saw it on YouTube.

  30. tiggity Silver badge

    long game

    fast forward a few billion years

    Sun reaching EOL and starts to expand, expansion destroys earth in suitably cataclysmic manner.

    The inhabitants of Pluto are chatting

    "There goes what they called the earth"

    "Serves them right, not regarding us as a planet"

    "Not that it matters, the muppets who slagged us off destroyed themselves long ago anyway"

    "Still, it was a good light show"

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