New Hit Single: “Pluto the Previous Planet”

I see the folks attending the third .astronomy (dotastronomy) conference this year have been busy — hacking away and creating all sorts of ingenious tools, websites and … songs. Here’s astronomer Amanda Bauer and her band of renown with their new song, “Pluto the Previous Planet.”

So, are all these astronomers Pluto-huggers? Not necessarily. Amanda writes on her website, Astropixie:

as much as i like the song as it is, the last verse might lead one to believe that i would like to reinstate pluto as a planet. i want to state for the record that this is NOT the case! i’m pleased that astronomers have decided on a definition of a planet that is based on some actual physics! the song is just fun and i hope people enjoy it.

And speaking of Pluto, make sure you check out Clyde Tombaugh’s Ten Commandements for Would-Be Planet Hunters, too.

Also, take a look at the .astronomy 3 trailer below to see what else this group of geeks has been up to this week. Who ever said astronomers don’t know how to have a good time?

.astronomy3 Trailer from Markus Poessel on Vimeo.

4 Replies to “New Hit Single: “Pluto the Previous Planet””

  1. Amanda, I am an astronomer as well as a singer, and I can tell you confidently that astronomers have not decided on any planet definition.” As someone who has actively spent the last four-and-a-half years working to get Pluto and all dwarf planets reinstated as planets, I want to emphasize that astronomers remain divided between a dynamical and a geophysical planet definition. A dynamical definition focuses on the way celestial objects affect and perturb one another and states that only dynamically dominante, or large celestial objects, should be classed as planets. In contrast, a geophysical definition, which, contrary to your statement, is equally based on physics, focuses on individual objects themselves rather than on the objects’ effects on others. According to the geophysical planet definition, any object large enough to be pulled into a round shape by its own gravity, a state known as hydrostatic equilibrium, is a planet, whether or not it gravitationally dominates its orbit. Both views are equally legitimate.

    The IAU decision was largely political rather than scientific. Significantly, only four percent of the IAU voted on the controversial definition that demoted Pluto. Their decision was immediately opposed in a formal petition by hundreds of professional astronomers led by Dr. Alan Stern, Principal Investigator of NASA’s New Horizons mission to Pluto. Stern and like-minded scientists favor a broader planet definition that includes any non-self-luminous spheroidal body in orbit around a star. The spherical part is important because objects become spherical when they attain a state known as hydrostatic equilibrium, meaning they are large enough for their own gravity to pull them into a round shape. This is a characteristic of planets and not of shapeless asteroids and Kuiper Belt Objects. Pluto meets this criterion and is therefore a planet.

    I urge you and everyone interested in this debate to read Alan Boyle’s book “The Case for Pluto.”

  2. “This [hydrostatic equilibrium] is a characteristic of planets and not of shapeless asteroids and Kuiper Belt Objects.”

    Aren’t Ceres, Triton and Eris, among others, in hydrostatic equilibrium?

  3. Fun stuff! Pluto and Rudolph should be relatively proud. [I look forward to either Brown or Tyson in a counter lyric version. The Grinch song might suit the crowd.

    Now, moving onward to other subjective astronomical errors, can you do one about our yellow Sun to promote the movement that it ain’t yeller. Perhaps something to the tune of Mellow Yellow…hmmmm. “The call mellow yellow, quite white…”

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