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"Many tearful eyes" at the IAU conference in Prague where it was decided to demote Pluto

Pluto will become the first body in a new category - "dwarf planets", a rank lower than ordinary planets, but higher than "minor planets" in which asteroids and comets are included. It was clear to everyone that the decrease in Pluto's status could upset the public, who had been educated, until now, about a certain structure of the solar system

The community of astronomers as a concoction: As we reported a few hours ago (see link at the bottom of the article), the solar system underwent a fundamental change today (Thursday 24/8/06), with the removal of the planet Pluto from the list of planets. At the conference of the members of astronomy, held once every four years, which this year numbered 2,500 scientists, the term "planet" was given the first orderly definition, and Pluto no longer fits the nomenclature. The scientists effectively stripped it of its status as a planet and relegated the small, distant world to second rank.

The researchers argued that Pluto failed to dominate its orbit around the Sun in the same way that other planets do. The meaning of the decision of the International Astronomical Union is that textbooks will have to describe the solar system as having only eight main planets.

Pluto will become the first body in a new category - "dwarf planets", a rank lower than ordinary planets, but higher than "minor planets" in which asteroids and comets are included. It was clear to everyone that the decline in Pluto's status could upset the public, which had been educated, until now, on a certain structure of the solar system.

tearful eyes

"I felt a small tear drop in my eye. Yes, but at the end of the day, we had to describe the solar system as it really is, not as we would like it to look," said Prof. Ian Williams, head of the panel on behalf of the IAU, which has done much in the last month to define the term "planet".

The convention included many heated debates, until the time of the final vote. The need for a stricter definition seemed essential after the new telescope technology began to help detect distant objects, rivaling the size of Pluto.

Without this definition, the newly discovered bodies would increase the number of planets, and the textbooks would have to "talk" about 50 planets in the solar system, or more.

The scientists agreed that for a celestial body to be considered a planet it must meet the following conditions:

  • It must go around the sun
  • It should be large enough to have a round shape
  • It has to clear its path from other objects

Pluto was ruled out because its extremely elliptical orbit partially overlaps Neptune's orbit. It should now fall into the category of dwarf planets.

Pluto's status has been contested for many years. It is distant and significantly smaller than the other eight traditional planets in the solar system. Its diameter is only 2,360 kilometers. Pluto is smaller than even some of the largest moons in the solar system. Its orbit around the Sun is even tilted compared to the plane of the major planets. In addition, since the beginning of the nineties, astronomers have discovered several objects comparable in size to Pluto in the Kuiper Belt, with the largest of them - 2003 UB313, discovered in 2003, and it turned out to be about 3,000 km in diameter, that is, about 30 percent larger than Pluto.

The director of the observatory in Givatayim, Yigal Fatal, explained in an interview with IDF Radio the reason for the upheaval in the solar system: "Pluto, which is mostly made of ice, was discovered in 1930. Some time after the discovery, it seemed that its orbit was tilted and different from the orbit of the other planets. A few years ago, other bodies were discovered, similar to the controversial star."

"Later," Fattal added, "to their astonishment, the scientists discovered a star even bigger than Pluto. So the group got together and after grievances and debates it was decided to declare Pluto a "dwarf planet" - a round body, which does not surround any body other than the Sun.

Now the most "burning" task that is assigned to the scientists, writers and teachers, is to change the thick space books, which are placed on the shelves of bookstores - this time, without the familiar planet.


Plutonian trivia

  • He is named after the god of the underworld in Roman mythology
  • Its average distance from the sun is 5.9 billion kilometers
  • orbits the sun every 248 years
  • Its diameter is 2,360 km
  • It has at least three moons
  • His day is 6.8 earth days long
  • Gravity - about 6% of that of the Earth
  • Average temperature on the surface - 233 degrees below zero
  • The New Horizons spacecraft will reach it in 2015

Drafting and editing: H. J. Glykasm, translations and technical writing

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