Permanent Human Settlement of the Earth, Space and Ocean Frontiers

Thursday, February 02, 2006

The 13th Planet

In an article yesterday in Nature Magazine, it was announced that the newest planet discovered orbiting the sun is actually significantly larger than Pluto. It is designated planet 2003 UB313. By comparison, the newly discovered planet has been measured at 3,000 kilometers in diameter compared to Pluto’s 2,300. (Click here for graphic from Nature.) The new planet was discovered by Mike Brown of Caltech and officially announced in July of 2005.

2003 UB313 occupies an orbit that is highly elongated and takes it out twice as far as Pluto’s distant orbit.

The International Astronomical Union (IAU) is still arguing over the definition of a planet. Imagine that. Now that 2003 UB313 has been discovered, now there are four new “planets” waiting to be affirmed as planets. Alonngside 2003 UB313 are Sedna, Quaoar and 2004 DW.

Meanwhile, every kid in America and all their science teachers are as confused as the IAU. At this point, teaching there are nine planets orbiting around the sun is officially garbage. But how many are there? Are there now 13 as the numbers would suggest? Why is the IAU arguing and failing to reach consensus on how to identify a planet? And what is the cause of all this babble? Now – astonishingly – for the first time in the civilized history of man – no one on earth knows how many planets we can see because no one can agree on the definition of a planet. Who would have believed that it would actually come to this?

Let me suggest a fix here. Pick a number guys, and then let’s move on.

Perhaps the IAU needs to enlist a class of willing 5th graders to help them make up thier collective minds.

OBTW - Are you aware that anyone can now take an online course in Space Exploration? It's called the I2SE - International Institute of Space Exploration - and the details are found by clicking here. It's been around since 1994 and they offer a lot for a good price!

Image Copyright (c) by Dan Durda