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Astronomers challenge the decision to downgrade Pluto and call it a hijacker

Only 424 astronomers participated in the vote, out of 2,700 who were present during the convention in Prague and out of 10,000 members of the union worldwide

The matter is apparently still undecided, after many scientists decide to challenge the vote at the International Astronomical Union conference on downgrading Pluto and removing it from the list of planets of the solar system. On Thursday, the experts gathered in Prague approved a definition of planets that relegates Pluto to a lower rank of celestial objects.
However, the lead scientist in NASA's New Horizons mission, a spacecraft making its way to Pluto, attacked the decision and called it "embarrassing".
"The chairman of the committee made sure that the definition was accepted in the form of an abductor. I can only laugh at the decision" said Alan Stern from the Southwest Research Institute in the USA.
The decision was made at the IAU's 1919-day general assembly in Prague, Czech Republic, which ended on Thursday. The IAU has been the party responsible for determining the names of objects in space since 424. Only XNUMX astronomers who remained in Prague on the last day of the meeting participated in the vote. An initial proposal by a team established by the union's management to add three planets to the solar system - the asteroid Ceres, Pluto's moon Charon and Xena, met with strong opposition during the meeting. Long days of discussions and debates continued from then until the vote.
In the end, scientists adopted historical guidelines according to which Pluto is relegated to the second tier of "dwarf planets".
Dr. Alan Stern, the scientific director of the New Horizons project, which is making its way to Pluto and did not participate in the vote in Prague, said: "This is a bad definition. This is sloppy science that will not pass peer review for two reasons: First, it is impossible and artificial to set a boundary between dwarf planets and main planets. It's like we would declare that humans are not humans for certain reasons such as "they tend to live in groups" Second, the new definition is bad because it is inconsistent. said.
According to him, one of the three criteria for planet status is that the object should "clear the area around its orbit." The largest object in the solar system, Jupiter, actually accumulates material in its orbit or throws it out in a gravitational blow. The argument against Pluto is that it is not suitable because its orbit is very elliptical and it crosses the orbit of Neptune. However, Dr. Stern points out that the Earth, Mars, Jupiter and Neptune also did not clean their area completely. About ten thousand near-Earth asteroids orbit near the Earth's orbit. Jupiter is accompanied by about a hundred thousand Trojan asteroids in its orbit.
These rocks are mostly blocks of stones left over from the formation of the solar system over 4 billion years ago. "If Neptune had cleared its orbit, Pluto wouldn't be there," he added.
Stern said like-minded astronomers have started a petition to restore status to Pluto, car stickers urging drivers to "honk if Pluto is still a planet" have been put up for sale online and emails have started circulating online describing the IAU as the irrelevant astronomical union (pun intended). on the acronym - Irrelevant Astronomical Union)

Evan Gingrich, who chaired the IAU's Planet Definition Committee and helped draft the initial proposal that increased the number of planets from 9 to 12, said that the decision was the result of a rebellion by astronomers who specialize in the motion and gravitational effects of celestial bodies. "In our original proposal we took the definition of a planet as planetary geologists would like to see it. The dynamists felt offended that we did not consult them and did not ask for their opinion. Somehow there are enough of them left to raise a big shout" said Prof. Gingrich. According to him, the rebels managed to cause such a noise that allowed them to challenge the integrity and delicacy of the first decision. "There were 2,700 people in Prague during the ten days of the conference, but only 10% of them voted today. Those who did not agree to the proposal were determined to block the other proposals that seemed to have more voters than those who did not care." The number of voters was only 4% of all astronomers who are members of the union. He called for an electronic vote in which all union members could participate and not just those who come to the conventions, "just like we don't go to Washington to elect a president every four years."
Gingrich said he has no intention of changing the non-fiction books he's writing about the solar system these days.

One response

  1. There is no escape - in the XNUMXth century what ultimately determines is mainly - the size!
    And it is clear that if Pluto's status remains "gone" then the rest of the larger bodies must be
    To define them as "go" one way or another - whatever will not be decided - will be a pattern change in the books...
    And it's not really important either.

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