Saturday, March 10, 2007

Planet Amnesty Day

It occurs to me that when the IAU thoughtlessly booted Pluto from the "Big Planets Club", that was a little bit like "Blogroll Amnesty Day".

Hey, the planetroll is gone. Happy "Planet Amnesty Day"! We've decided to rebuild our list of planets, which, after all, was really old and outdated. The universe has changed a lot since we first compiled that list. And we're only going to be adding those planets that we think about on a daily basis. The ones we think are pretty. Sorry, Pluto. Yeah, it sucks, and it feels bad, but we're just looking to the future here!

I can imagine the IAU's version of Atrios then went on to pen an essay entitled, "Why your planet sucks."

Sure, Pluto's just a cold rock really really far away. But even so, I can't help rooting for the underdog. Er, underplanet? Anyway, I enjoyed seeing this:

Seven months after a conclave of scientists downgraded the distant heavenly body to a "dwarf planet," a state representative in New Mexico aims to give the snubbed world back some of its respect. State lawmakers will vote Tuesday on a bill that proposes "as Pluto passes overhead through New Mexico's excellent night skies, it be declared a planet."

The resolution, House Joint Memorial 54, was introduced by Rep. Joni Marie Gutierrez (D-Dona Ana County). It reiterates the importance of astronomy to the state of New Mexico and calls for March 13 to be "Pluto Planet Day."

The date is the birthday of Percival Lowell, the astronomer that posited the existence of a "Planet X" beyond the orbit of Neptune. The resolution also highlights that Pluto's discoverer, Clyde Tombaugh, comes from the county Gutierrez represents. Tombaugh found Pluto in 1930.

"We always took a lot of pride in the fact that he discovered Pluto," Gutierrez said in a phone interview with Wired News. "When they declared it a dwarf planet, we took it as a personal affront, so I envisioned that when then legislative session started, I would propose that at least in New Mexico, Pluto still be considered a planet."

Gutierrez believes the resolution will pass easily.

Read the rest here.


Librocrat said...

It's funny how much it offends us that Pluto was downgraded. Probably because we grow up in school creating planet diagrams and reading coloring books that assured us that Pluto was a planet - named after the Disney character? No.

Laurel Kornfeld said...

Pluto's downgrade is offensive because it was done in an extremely surreptitious, backroom deal process by only four percent of the IAU on the last day of a two-week conference. Most who voted are not planetary scientists, and their new planet "definition" makes no sense because no planet has fully "cleared its orbit." Also, saying a "dwarf planet" is not a planet at all makes no linguistic sense. It's like saying a grizzly bear is not a bear. This was a political rather than a scientific move, and it immediately generated a backlash by over 300 professional astronomers who signed a petition saying they will not use the new planet definition. Hopefully, it will be overturned at the next IAU General Assembly in 2009.