Are Pluto and Eris Twins?


Back a couple of weeks ago, I wrote an article highlighting the debate between scientists on which dwarf planet is bigger, Pluto or Eris. During a planetary science conference earlier this month in France, word “leaked” out that Eris was still more massive, but likely smaller in diameter.

Today, the latest findings were published in Nature, and as such are now “official”. There’s also some additional information, so I’d like to revisit this topic and include some new details which may help answer the question:

Could Eris and Pluto actually be twins?

Before we answer the pressing question, let’s revisit my prior post at:

Bruno Sicardy of the Paris Observatory and his team calculated the diameter of Eris in 2010. The technique they used took advantage of an occultation between Eris and a faint background star. Sicardy’s results provided a diameter of 2,326 kilometers for Eris, slightly less than his 2009 estimate of Pluto’s diameter at 2,338 kilometers.

Combining the diameter estimate with mass estimates yielded a density estimate for Eris which suggests, and is supported by its extra mass, that its composition is far more rocky than Pluto, with Eris being only 10-15% ice by mass.

In this week’s announcement by the European Southern Observatory, additional information was presented which sheds new light on cold, distant Eris.

Regarding the new density estimates, Emmanuel Jehin, one of Sicardy’s team members mentions, “This density means that Eris is probably a large rocky body covered in a relatively thin mantle of ice”.

Further supporting Jehin’s assertion, The surface of Eris was found to be extremely reflective, (96% of the light that falls on Eris is reflected, making it nearly as reflective as a backyard telescope mirror). Based on the current estimate, Eris is more reflective than freshly fallen snow on Earth. Based on spectral analysis of Eris, its surface reflectivity is most likely due to a surface of nitrogen-rich ice and frozen methane. Some estimates place the thickness of this layer at less than one millimeter.

Jehin also added, “This layer of ice could result from the dwarf planet’s nitrogen or methane atmosphere condensing as frost onto its surface as it moves away from the Sun in its elongated orbit and into an increasingly cold environment. The ice could then turn back to gas as Eris approaches its closest point to the Sun, at a distance of about 5.7 billion kilometers.”

Based on the new information on surface composition and surface reflectivity, Sicardy and his team were able to make temperature estimates for Eris. The team estimates daytime temperatures on Eris of -238 C, and that temperatures on the night side of Eris would be much lower.

Sicardy concluded with, “It is extraordinary how much we can find out about a small and distant object such as Eris by watching it pass in front of a faint star, using relatively small telescopes. Five years after the creation of the new class of dwarf planets, we are finally really getting to know one of its founding members.”

Source(s): ESO Press Release , Universe Today

207 Replies to “Are Pluto and Eris Twins?”

  1. This article points out yet another reason I can’t wait for New Horizons to reach the Plutonian neighborhood!

      1. I eagerly await the first actual images of this distant and mysterious dwarf planet. Your article just brought my wish top of mind again. Thanks!

    1. Indeed, Mr. Sparrow. New Horizons will measure Pluto and put this issue to rest once and for all, “barring a mishap,” to quote Dr. Alan Stern.

  2. Eris and Pluto are much more twins than “rivals,” as some in the media have tried to convey. The fact remains that the entire premise for the controversial IAU vote in 2006, specifically, that Eris is larger than Pluto, meaning Pluto could not remain a planet if Eris was not considered one–was erroneous. Eris is denser but not larger than Pluto, meaning its percentage of rock is likely higher than Pluto’s. Pluto is estimated at 70 percent rock and is geologically differentiated into core, mantle, and crust, just like Earth is. It is not an iceball. Clearly, neither is Eris. Since the IAU based its vote on erroneous information, it only makes sense that the IAU reopen the discussion at the 2012 General Assembly based on this new data. What really needs to be considered is that dwarf planets are a subclass of planets, not something other than planets. That was the intention of Dr. Stern when he first coined the term in 1991–our solar system has three classes of planets, not two–terrestrials, jovians and dwarf planets.

      1. Cute cartoon I’ve seen many times that literally could have been created with me in mind! 🙂

      2. Sounds a bit sexist, Ivan. If you are a sexist, then you should not like Eris. It is named after a goddess. Pluto was named after a god.

    1. What really needs to be considered is that dwarf planets are a subclass of planets, […]

      It is already considered that, so what’s your bloody problem?!

      1. Not according to the IAU. The Wikipedia article is vague, describing dwarf planets as a “new subcategory” without specifically saying a subcategory of planets. If you look at the IAU resolutions, you will see that resolution 5b, which would have established dwarf planets as a subclass of planets, failed by a vote of 333-91. If just this is amended to establish dwarf planets as a subclass of planets (which is in accord with the use of the word “dwarf” in astronomy, where dwarf stars are still stars, and dwarf galaxies are still galaxies), much of the debate would dissipate.

      2. It’s illogical to take it as a subclass. If you put it there it becomes a planet and that doesn’t make sense, it goes against planet definition. Subclasses of planets are terrestrial and gas/ice giants. If you still don’t understand, planet and dwarf planet are different words because there are 5 more letters, you can’t put them together. 🙂

        You can’t really compare planets and stars. It’s a different concept, different scales and different features. Therefore it’s bound to evolve different taxonomy. 🙂 Stars don’t care about orbits. You would have to change planet definition in order to have it like stars. Be aware of comparisons, they are often misleading. We could rework star definitions and separate some classes, but you gotta be an ignorant or something, you would ignore some differences. You obviously want to have 100 planets and you ignore differences between objects. You are kind of religious, you believe in it, but you are sooo wrong.

        Will you dissipate for me now? 🙂

        PS: It’s actually pretty sad that 91 scientists can’t use logic and are overly religious. 😀 Do you guys sell books this way? 😀

      3. No, I will not “dissipate” for you.

        You are treating the IAU planet definition as some sort of gospel truth. So what if making dwarf planets a subclass of planets goes against the IAU definition? That definition is nothing more than the product of 333 people, most of whom do not even study planets. It is a subjective statement, not some sort of holy word. Who says we can have only two classes of planets, terrestrials and gas/ice giants? Why can’t we have three, four, five, even 100 subclasses, if that reflects the reality of what is out there?

        “Dwarf planet” is a noun modified by an adjective. The IAU cannot just make up its own grammar because a few people feel like doing so. The term was very specifically coined by one of the world’s leading planetary scientists to designate a third subclass of planets.

        I hate to tell you this, but planets don’t care about orbits either. Humans care about orbits. Humans decide whether orbits can make objects planets or non-planets. The Herzsprung Russell Diagram can serve as an example of how to classify a wide variety of objects, all of which have one central property in common. For stars, that property is fusion of hydrogen or deuterium. For planets, that property is hydrostatic equilibrium, being shaped by its own gravity. With a classification system that assumes a wide spectrum of subtypes, orbits will most certainly play a major role. They just will not supersede what individual objects are in and of themselves.

        Differences between objects will not be ignored; they will be encompassed in a broader classification system.

        I don’t have a desire for any specific number of planets. What I do want is openness to recognizing the sheer numbers and variety of what is out there. If in our solar system that means 100 planets, then so be it. Why should we artificially constrain that number just for the sake of convenience?

        There is no “right” or “wrong” here; there are two equally legitimate interpretations of the facts. Both are valid. How can you be a scientist if you regard anyone who disagrees with you as illogical?

      4. Hi Ray, I am not sure of the distinction. I think you can say plutoid or dwarf planet, that the terms are interchangeable. If you can shed some light on this, it would be appreciated.

      5. The term “plutoids” was never necessary and is pretty much a laughingstock among astronomers. What’s wrong with Kuiper Belt dwarf planets?

      6. Actually it is orbitally challenged. It depends on the neighborhood if it is a planet, exactly as it does for moons being moons.

        It is a very nice symmetry, besides being based on good science. Biologists have much more problem defining their populations, having 26+ definitions for species alone!

      7. Contrary to the opinions of some, I am not the only person advocating Pluto’s planet status or a geophysical planet definition.

      8. The IAU therefore resolves that “planets” and other bodies in our Solar System, except satellites, be defined into three distinct categories in the following way:

        RESOLUTION 5A-1.
        1. A “planet” [1] is a celestial body that;
        (a) is in orbit around the Sun;
        (b) It has sufficient mass for its self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces so that it assumes a hydrostatic equilibrium (nearly round) shape;
        (c) It has not “cleared the neighbourhood” around its orbit; and
        (d) It is not a satellite of a planet, or other nonstellar body.

        RESOLUTION 5A-2.
        2. A “dwarf planet” is a celestial body that;
        (a) is in orbit around the Sun,
        (b) has sufficient mass for its self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces so that
        it assumes a hydrostatic equilibrium (nearly round) shape [2],
        (c) has not cleared the neighbourhood around its orbit, and
        (d) is not a satellite.

        RESOLUTION 5A-3.
        3. All other objects [3] except satellites orbiting the Sun shall be referred to collectively as “Small Solar System Bodies”

        Resolution 5A : Footnotes
        1. The eight “planets” are: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune.
        2. An IAU process will be established to assign borderline objects into either dwarf planet and other categories.
        3. These currently include most of the Solar System asteroids, most Trans-Neptunian Objects (TNOs), comets, and other small bodies.

        Another resolution about Pluto was also made where the I.A.U. proclaimed;

        Pluto is a “dwarf planet” by the above definition and is recognized as the prototype of a new category of trans-Neptunian objects.

      9. I like the commentary too:

        “Today the resolution remains in place and is a testament to the fluid nature of science and how our view of the Universe continues to evolve with changes made by observations, measurements and theory.”

        I think that resolves all laurele’s concerns as far as science and the astronomical context goes.

        Now back to actual science…

      10. The deplanetization of Pluto, when scratching the surface of the dynamics surrounding it, has nothing to do with Science. How it happened is a disturbing display of an abuse of power by a small cabal of power-corrupted scientists deciding to ramrod their Pluto-disrespecting resolution down the collective throats of Earthlings without due regard of justice. Moreover, a formal petition of protest was signed by many leading planetary scientists right after the resolution was passed, so any blanket assertion that most scientists agree with the resolution is untrue. Only 424 members voted, one of whom has stated in writing that he was intimidated with the destruction of his career were he to vote for Pluto’s continued planethood. Why is this so difficult for you to understand that this is wrong? It seems pretty cut and dry to me.

      11. I am no one’s puppet, Ivan. You are terrible. In fact, I have been into Pluto far longer than she has and have a Wikipedia entry about me. Why do I get the impression that you were a bully in elementary school?

      12. O.K., I’ve checked you out: you’re an artist/singer/songwriter who, in 1981, founded The Ultra-Renaissance Art Movement – which would explain your sentimental attachment to Pluto!

      13. Ah, I see, well, I am not just an artist, and the way Pluto was deplanetized was patently unjust to anyone who delves into the subject with any resolve.

      14. I am not just an artist. I have the writer thing going, too, so I have developed both sides of my brain, Ivan.

      15. No thanks, it is probably a virus.
        What is your problem? Do you not know how to express yourself with words?

    2. Three: Terrestrial, Gas Giant, and Ice Giant. The fourth, “Dwarf”, is a class of solar system bodies that are similar to, but not quite planets. I’ve misstated my thoughts on this a couple of times, and apologize for any prior ambiguity.

      1. I can agree with separating gas giants and ice giants, given they are compositionally different, but I obviously do not agree that dwarf planets are “similar to but not quite planets.” At least according to a geophysical definition, they are planets, just small ones–the same way dwarf stars are small stars, and dwarf galaxies are small galaxies. We should expect the number of subcategories of planets to continue increasing as we find more objects in both this solar system and in others.

    3. Dr. Stern is a wise man. But are wise men men? If a woodchuck chucks wood, it is both a woodchucking woodchuck and a woodchuck,or are those woodchucks that chuck wood not woodchucks. Better ask the IAU……

    4. I’m not sure why people get into this planet/dwarf planet debate. It is all about semantics and arbitrary categories. It doesn’t change anything about the properties of the actual objects. Unless someone can show me that the planet/dwarf planet categorization makes a difference in terms of real science, I say let the IAU set their definitions and categories how they want and find better things to spend your mental and emotional energy on. Who cares if Pluto is a “planet” or not? It is still a very interesting and cold object that I can’t wait to find out more about. Learning more about it will probably tell us a lot about the formation of the solar system, whether it is categorized as a planet or not.

      1. As a writer, I can tell you that semantics and words DO matter. They are central to how we understand the world around us. Why should we let the IAU set definitions if over five years, they have repeatedly messed up in doing so? They conducted a vote in violation of their own bylaws; they voted on a definition that centers only on where an object is to the exclusion of what it is, a definition that could result in the same object being a planet in one location and not a planet in another, and most importantly, a definition based much more on politics than on science. No individual or group should have a blank check to issue decrees that the rest of the world is then forced to accept. Obviously, many people, especially planetary scientists, do care, not just how Pluto is classified, but about having a definition that makes a proper distinction between shapeless asteroids and ice balls and objects like Pluto that are structurally akin to planets due to being shaped by their own gravity. Why is it such a problem to have multiple classes of planets? We should look to the way stars are classified, through the Herzsprung-Russell Diagaram, which encompasses a wide variety of stars at various stages in their lives, and create something similar for the classification of planets.

      2. [T]hey voted on a definition that centers only on where an object is to the exclusion of what it is, a definition that could result in the same object being a planet in one location and not a planet in another, […]

        In the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.

      3. Laurele, you are obviously passionate about this issue, for reasons that aren’t clear to me. I am also a writer, although of a different kind than you I suspect. As a writer you should understand that all rules of grammar and definitions are arbitrarily set by society and they change over time. Your definition of planets and other objects is just as arbitrary as the ones voted on by the IAU. We are imposing a system of understanding on objects that exist regardless of what definitions we give them. As to why we should let the IAU set definitions – it’s their job. You did not answer my question in your reply – how is the science of the solar system negatively affected by the current classification of objects? Ultimately, I doubt I will have convinced you and I probably won’t budge from my position either.

      4. First, there’s nothing wrong with respectfully agreeing to disagree! 🙂

        The IAU is essentially a group that appointed itself to “safeguard the science of astronomy.” Most members are not planetary scientists but other types of astronomers. Many members now believe the IAU should never have taken up this issue at all, instead letting time and new discoveries give us answers that we currently do not have. For most of its history, the IAU did not deal with planets at all but with stellar and galactic astronomy, cosmology, and setting exact measurement standards. Planetary science is relatively new because only in the last 50 or so years have we been able to robotically explore other worlds, both planets and moons, in our solar system. Eventually, there will likely be a separate group of planetary scientists who form their own group to deal solely with planetary bodies, whether exoplanets or bodies in this solar system. Many astronomers are already considering this.

        It’s not so much the science of the solar system that is being negatively affected by this one classification system but our understanding of the science of the solar system. For one, people often wrongly think the debate is over without realizing there are two very different but equally legitimate ways in understanding planets. Additionally, the public has gotten the wrong impression that science can be dictated by fiat, which is not the case. Appealing to authority is not a valid argument. Plus, the IAU definition does blur the distinction between two very different classes of objects–those in hydrostatic equilibrium and shapeless asteroids and comets.

        This issue has inspired me to pursue a degree and possible career in astronomy. Is that a “bad” thing? I happen to like “strange new worlds” and decided I want to study them further. Given that we are in a golden age of rapid planetary discovery, my choice is to keep any definition of planet broad and flexible because we never know what we might find out there, and the only certainty we can expect is the unexpected.

      5. I think you are loosing that one, concentrating on a definitional issue and skewing your commentary for an agenda are both misinforming on what science is. A great example is your unreferenced claims on what the scientific society is and does.

        All this is also taking time from presenting actual information.

        Kawarthjon is raising a great point. Language are evolving as is science. No ones control issues should stand in the way of such successful processes.

        Now I can’t tell if it is the problem for any individuals commenting here (in which case it would be an ad hominem), but generally prescriptionists are behaving exactly like control freaks or “excessively obsessed with detail control”. The simplest and likeliest prediction is that most are. (It would be interesting to see any research into this.)

      6. This issue is not about winning and losing. The fact that five years after the vote, professional astronomers continue to reject it indicates the IAU decision is problematic.

        If anyone has control issues, it is the leadership of the IAU, at least the leadership from 2006-2009. Watch the video of the proceedings in which this vote was carried out. It was the IAU Executive Committee that insisted a decision had to be made then and there even though there was insufficient time to fully process all the information, including that on exoplanets. It was the IAU leadership that insisted they had to produce “something” or they would “look like idiots” to the rest of the world. And it is the IAU leadership that refused the request of professional astronomers, including its own members, to reopen the discussion in 2009.

        Ultimately, there should be less control overall. Let the data and the facts determine the outcome. That takes time and processing; it does not happen instantaneously.

        It’s just my guess, but in 100 years, all of these definitions being bandied about will likely be superseded by something much more detailed and reflective of a multiple-solar system universe.

      7. I don’t claim to know anything about the IAU process and what happened at the meeting at which Pluto was designated a dwarf planet, but you and Sowff really sound like conspiracy theorists. You have done nothing to sway me away from my original position because you have not shown me any evidence that this will affect planetary science. You and Sowff just seem upset about how the decision was made, which is a fair complaint if your statements are true, but still doesn’t impact planetary science one iota.

      8. You don’t have to believe or accept anything we say. However, you might want to consider some other sources. First, the Great Planet Debate, whose transcripts are available here: The proceedings at Prague are discussed by people on both sides who were actually there. Also, check out the book “The Case for Pluto” by Alan Boyle and “Pluto Confidential,” a book co-written by two astronomers, Dr. Laurence Marschall and Dr. Stephen Maran, one who voted on the demotion and another who opposes it. Also, check out the videos of the IAU proceedings here:
        and here:

      9. First of all, I think it’s great that you want to pursue a career in astronomy – the more people doing research, the more I can learn about something that I am not clever enough to understand without the help of clever people. I love astronomy, but I do not have a mind for mathematics, so will never pursue a career in the field.

        You seem to have changed your position from your earlier posts. Initially, you were very critical of the IAU, but now you are saying that theirs and yours are equally valid perspectives on defining a planet. You also seem to agree with me that the definitions of planets has not really impacted the science of the solar system.

        As for the issue of the IAU appointing themselves, we live in democratic societies (for the most part). If you don’t agree with the IAU definitions and feel passionate about the issue, organize your own group and make your own definitions. Time will tell whether the general scientific consensus agrees with your opinion or another. It is important to note, as well, that the definition of planets was voted on by the IAU. That means that the majority of scientists agreed with that definition. I would imagine that the definition will change again at some point in the future, because that is the nature of societies, democracies and science.

      10. As a leading body in astronomy, the IAU has a responsibility to obey its own by-laws and not ramrod resolutions down the throat of the general membership. In 2006 in Prague, the Executive Committee did just that. Having seen the ignoble session in which Pluto was given the shaft, and hearing from one member there whose career was actually threatened should he vote to keep Pluto a planet, I am outraged. I am a writer, too, as well as an artist, but any person who believes in justice should be outraged. If you have followed this debate, you will know that dwarf galaxies are considered to be galaxies by the IAU. So why are not dwarf planets considered to be planets? It is obvious that the executive committee had an agenda.

      1. So, what is an appropriate reaction after you blow an obsessed maniac away? Do you really think I’m going to be trolled by you now? Well, I could copy paste my arguments again, but I’m not a spammer.

      2. Are you calling laurele a maniac now? You need to get a grip, dude. You teach at a university? Do you have tenure?

      3. As tempting as it is to go off on one on plutophiles, I do think laurele makes lucid points (it’s a shame most of the others don’t). That said, this particular article really isn’t the best place to bring up the debate again. The article is not about the definition.

      4. True enough, squidgeny, but the facts regarding Pluto, Eris, and the IAU do have a lot of relevance to the future of astronomy. If scientists get caught up in ego-stroking and agenda-ramming, as the IAU is doing, the future of space exploration will get bleaker and bleaker. The IAU should want to inspire the world with wonder, not be bogged down by petty bureaucrats hiding behind the mantle of their astronomical credentials. Laurel’s campaign to shed light on such is extremely important and she should be commended, not slammed.

      5. And now we have the conspiracy theory side of this sliming these science pages, scientists are not doing science but “caught up in ego-stroking and agenda-ramming”.

        Doing productive science is far better ROI for egos and agendas. You would know that if you were really concerned about it.

      6. I am very concerned, Torbjörn Larsson. Do not pretend to know the inner workings of my heart. As I have said, the tape of the session of the 2006 GA in Prague will show quite clear utter ramrodding, and a pro-Pluto speaker was cut off in mid-sentence. The resolution to deplanetize Pluto was rammed down the throats of Earthlings as if we were all Linda Lovelace. If you think that is Science, you might have a career in Van Nuys, CA.

      7. What is ROI, TL? Lighten up, dude. I am not accusing you of being phoney and I deserve the same courtesy. Try to focus on what I am saying. I am trying to be clear and consise. It should not be that hard to understand my points.

      8. She is educating, HeadAroundU. What are you doing? Do you have any valid arguments to counter her points? There are some people who like to learn from others on the Net. Laurel studies hard on plutonian issues and is doing a great service in educating the lay public on such. To cut her down for such is doing no one a great service. Have you ever thought of making a positive contribution to Mankind on the Internet?

      9. This isn’t a debate. Science works by peer review, and it has spoken on this. Case closed (based on the current data).

        And on that topic, I haven’t seen laurele actually informing on Pluto, just spouting points taken out of context, i..e misinforming.

      10. Case not closed. In fact, saying “case closed” because you want to stimy any further debate indicates a rigidity on your part that is hardly conducive to the critical thinking so important in science. I don’t know what you mean by “spouting points.” I have laid out the arguments in favor of an alternate planet definition and argued that such a definition has as much merit as does the one adopted by the IAU.

        As for “peer review,” no such thing took place at the 2006 IAU General Assembly. That is why Dr. Stern described the IAU definition as “sloppy science that would never pass peer review.”

      11. Oh look, who is backing her up again…

        So, you don’t remember how I blew her away with valid arguments in the last discussion? Do you really think I’m going to be trolled by her now? She is obsessed.

        “Have you ever thought of making a positive contribution to Mankind on the Internet?”

        Yeah, I totally blew her away the last time. If you didn’t like it, then I have found an exoplanet that made news here.

      12. Are the hundreds of professional astronomers who continue to reject the IAU definition “obsessed” too? Why can you not tolerate anyone disagreeing with you?

      13. Well, at least they don’t spam here, that’s why I said obsessed. You also stalked plutokiller guy.

        They are maybe a bit crazy when they want to call moons planets. If you can’t see that it goes against the flow, then you are crazy too. We are going to call Titan 115th planet. You shouldn’t radically change everything.

        I tolerated you, but no more.

      14. Are you “plutokiller?” Is that why you’re repeating his nonsense verbatim? I never stalked anybody. Falsely accusing someone of a crime is a horrible thing to do. Commenting on web sites about Pluto, given that I am an astronomy graduate student with a special interest in Pluto is NOT stalking. Neither is giving myself the Twitter nickname “plutosavior.” And we don’t need to number the moons of planets. We can simply say, our solar system has a certain number of primary planets, and each one of them has a certain number of satellite planets ranging from zero to 63. You will have to tolerate the fact that the planet definition debate is not over because it’s not just going to go away because you wish it would.

      15. So what is your counterargument to the fact that the resolution was voted on on the last day of the GA, without proper notice or vetting, as per IAU’s bylaws. One member has admitted he was threatened. One pro-Pluto speaker at the session was cut off in midsentence. The fact that Earth, too, does not clear its orbit, having at least two asteroids, and the fact that dwarf galaxies are also considered galaxies? I await your response. It is not too late to admit you are wrong, HeadAroundU.

      16. Oh yes, I’m so glad that sane people voted. I don’t want crazy, illogical, obsessed, stalking and maniacal scientists to vote. Sane people are not gonna get rid of Moons, because it’s culturally important, faaar more than Pluto. They are not gonna add 23 dwarf planets out of nowhere. It’s easier to kill one. It cannot be done in a more sensitive way taking all the important parameters into account.

        Earth clears its orbit. Ceres doesn’t clear it. Those 2 asteroids I think can’t be cleared because they are Trojans locked in L points. It’s an exception. You are grasping at straws.

        You didn’t read my arguments? You can’t compare planet, star and galaxy taxonomy. It’s misleading. Not long ago there was a survey what is galaxy, so it’s not clear and we are not closely and culturally attached to stars and galaxies compared to planets or continents. It’s going to evolve in a different way.

        You have just been blown away.

      17. This post is an official request to the moderator to remove HeadAroundU’s two comments above accusing me of being a “stalker,” “crazy,” “maniacal,” and “obsessed.” HeadAboveU, you have crossed the line into slander and defamation of character. This is what people do when they cannot adequately support their positions. You have not answered any of the scientific issues I raised. I have just as much right to be an astronomer specializing in Pluto and outer solar system planets as does “plutokiller” or anyone else.

        No one is saying get rid of moons. What geophysicists are saying is, spherical moons are planetary bodies compositionally and structurally. What about this is crazy?

        And what is your obsession with “killing” planets? What about that has anything to do with science? If our solar system has 23 more dwarf planets, then yes, they should get added to the roster of planets. Of course it can be done. Why is this such a huge issue? This inability to tolerate more than a limited number of planets sounds a lot like the arguments of those who 100 years ago claimed the universe cannot be composed of more than one galaxy.

        I disagree with you in that I think we absolutely can compare taxonomy used for galaxies and stars with taxonomy used for planets. In fact, we are likely to discover many new planetary bodies in other solar systems that match none of our current criteria and likely will need new subcategories.

        Again, as a supporter of the geophysical planet definition, I do not believe an object has to clear its orbit to be a planet. There is nothing illogical about saying dwarf planets are a subclass of planets that are too small to gravitationally dominate their orbits. It is far more confusing to say dwarf planets are not planets at all.

        Resorting to personal attacks because you don’t like what someone has to say hardly constitutes “blowing someone away.”

      18. Oh, so Earth’s asteroids are an exception, you say? Who made this determination? Are you the IAU now? Is a midget a human being? You seem to have a quick answer to everything. If Earth was in Pluto’s orbit, it could not clear its path. Pluto has four moons, hydrostatic equilibrium, what more do you want from Pluto? Do you want it to do your laundry? Your attacks on laurele and your claims of blowing people away with your simplistic arguments all the while ignoring damning facts regarding the process by which Pluto was deplanetized make you a horrid debater.

      19. Is a midget a human being?

        A toddler is also a human being, but we don’t give it voting rights or a licence to drive a car, do we?

    5. Oh, not this again! It is like the EU trolling all over.

      If anything this makes Pluto less of a planet because Eris is more of one (rocky core).

      None of this played into the decision, which was based on the existence of a population akin to the asteroids and the ability to distinguish between planets and these by a single, orbital mechanics relevant, stability criterion.

      And finally, it doesn’t matter for science or science blogs. Go elsewhere to discuss your belief!

      1. No, it doesn’t make Pluto any less a planet, at least according to the geophysical planet definition. The only mass threshold important in this schema is the minimum mass for an object to be in hydrostatic equilibrium, and both Pluto and Eris have masses well beyond that minimum. Pluto and Eris are not akin to the asteroids structurally or compositionally. It is the blurring of this important distinction that makes the IAU decision so problematic.

        Telling those who disagree with you to “go away” is hardly good science.

  3. If they were twins, they would be the same size and both like Corn Flakes, have babies on the same day, both root for the Detroit Lions. But Pluto is bigger than Eris. Nice try, but no cigar. Pluto is the big brother of Eris, one of whose co-discoverers is consumed by envy…..

    1. Advise from a “identical real twin”. Your comparison of twins show you do not know much about twins.

      1. Yeah, yeah, I know. So sue me…..I was trying to make a point that nothing is the same. Christopher Marlowe once said, “Comparisons are odious.” He was born in the same year as Shakespeare and must have gotten compared to Willie ad nauseum…..

  4. Where are all those big KBO:s that we were promised when Eris and other large dwarf planets were discovered. The fact is that after the discovery of Eris in 2003 only one large kbo, snowwhite, has been discovered.

    What has happend is that almost everyone of the “dwarf planets” has shrunked in size.

    The question for today is rather: Why is Pluto and Eris so much bigger than the rest of the found KBO:s?

    Makemake is about 1500 km in diameter and Haumea 1400 km, Sedna most probably smaller the that…

    For me, Eris and Pluto is a group of their own. There are no different groups of planets
    Pluto and Eris are simply planet nine and ten.

      1. No, not end of story. What kind of science is that? You seem to be confusing science with dogma.

      2. The point is the IAU have decided there are eight planets. The text books now say it, little children are learning this now, and the logic card has been dealt. You may disagree with the decision, but it has been made. Accepted the decree and just move on.
        I also notice that one of the criteria often forgotten about is that the formation of “planets” and “dwarf planets” are different- probably defined by the accretion processes during the Solar System’s formation. I’d say you haven’t yet even explained what is the defined boundary between, say, dwarf planet and planet; or asteroid and planet.
        The IAU has made a very wise decision here. It doesn’t really matter if they are planets or dwarf planets, they don’t know the difference (unless of course, you believe in astrology!) and, really, nor do most of the human population.
        Should we also ban the starry constellations decided by the IAU in the 1930s just because there are a few who disagree with them?
        I’m already elsewhere….

      3. The IAU’s ramrod job had nothing to do with wisdom. Watch the session and you will not see wise ramrodding, just ramrodding.

      4. IAU decisions are based on democratic principles and international consensus by IAU delegates nominated by astronomers for their own countries. It is NOT just one single country. [Americans mostly seem to take that their own views and politics are universally and internationally accepted. Even if the rest of the world may disagree with this view, Americans think they have the right to dictate ‘correct’ policy. Is this democratic?]

        Really. Debate on this has raged since Pluto was discovered in the 1930s. A decision had to be made. It was. End of story.

      5. No, a decision did not have to be made, and does not have to be made now. That was a sentiment promoted by a group of dynamicists with their own agenda, specifically, to keep the number of planets forever at eight. This is not about Americans vs. non-Americans, as there are plenty of astronomers all over the world who do not accept the IAU definition. Many are ignoring it entirely, and others think it is a joke. I have been in contact with professional astronomers around the world who believe dwarf planets are a subclass of planets.

        You accuse Americans of wanting to dictate policy to the world, but that is exactly what you are doing. Even the IAU admits it cannot enforce its definition on anyone, including on any PhDs, that it has no authority to tell schools and teachers what to teach. Acceptance of this is only by individual consensus. If enough people don’t agree with it, it will just end up ignored.

        Let debate go on another 80 years. That is the way science really works. Each time we learn something new, we go back to the drawing board and rethink things. The notion that one decree should be forever frozen in time is not only the opposite of scientific; it is downright medieval.

        NOT end of story. The debate continues…

      6. “No, a decision did not have to be made, and does not have to be made now.”

        …and you accuse most of us as being not scientific!! Quite silly, if you ask me.

      7. Are you then saying that the several hundred professional astronomers who signed the petition rejecting the IAU definition do not exist? They may not be as prolific writers as I am, but they are professionals in the field, and they DO consider the debate ongoing. Almost every New Horizons update refers to Pluto as a planet. It’s more likely those who favor a geophysical planet definition are not taking the time to argue online because they believe the IAU and its flawed decision deserve as little attention as possible.

      8. Those who signing the petition happened five years ago!
        Virtually no one is bellyaching about this in 2011!

      9. They asked the IAU to reopen the discussion in 2009, and when the IAU leadership refused, these astronomers boycotted the General Assembly to protest the stifling of any debate. At this point, the petition signers have decided to break with the IAU entirely and ignore their decision the same way you plan on ignoring a decision by a planetary science organization. None of the signatories ever renounced their positions. Expect the issue to stay relatively quiet until 2015 when the New Horizons flyby of Pluto happens. There are plans in the works to use data from the flyby as a springboard for forming a new group. It’s just a matter of time.

      10. Sorry, but that is not how science works. A decision made once for all eternity by a self-appointed authority is something characteristic of religion, not of science.

        Plenty of textbooks and teachers are choosing to teach the controversy, meaning they are presenting the issue as an open debate with both sides. There are some good resources around with exercises and lesson plans that show how to do this. Science teachers regularly attend workshops where the topic of teaching the solar system and number of planets is one of the most popular topics. Kids are perfectly capable of understanding that there are two different ways of looking at the solar system.

        Here are some of the resources teachers are using: Listen to transcripts of the Saturday session, which was geared toward teachers.

        The New Horizons mission also has special “ambassadors,” volunteers who go to schools and teach about the mission, which does consider Pluto a planet.

        So you’re incorrect about little kids being taught we have only eight planets. I’m sure some are, but many are not. I’ve personally helped a few get their grades reinstated when they wrongly had points taken off tests for including Pluto with the planets. Teachers are usually grateful to be given sources more detailed than “the IAU said so.” In fact, it is the fault of the IAU that there is so much discrepancy in what is taught. If they had only left well enough alone, there wouldn’t be so much confusion over how to teach the solar system. Eris would simply be considered another planet.

        The decree remains controversial, and is not accepted by many. Its supporters don’t want to admit this, but the proliferation of books and articles five years after the vote shows their definition has not taken hold as fact.

        What we know about planet formation is constantly changing. Initial thought was that all solar systems formed like our own. Now, exoplanet systems are showing us that this is not the case and that there are many mechanisms for planet formation. In one case, a giant planet appears to have formed directly from a molecular cloud the way a star would form. In many cases, “hot Jupiters” are found near their parent stars, which was previously thought not possible. Planetary scientists often say there is a “need to go back to the drawing board” regarding planet formation since so much new data is contradicting earlier thought.

        The IAU decision was anything but wise. It was a resolution hastily thrown together, poorly worded, rushed through on the last day of a conference in violation of the group’s bylaws, and has caused more confusion than clarity. Even dynamicists don’t like the term “clearing its orbit,” since no object fully clears its orbit of asteroids; they would have preferred the term “gravitationally dominant.” Plus, the definition is biased against planets further away from their parent stars, since these have larger and larger orbits to “clear.”

        To me, the defined boundary between a dwarf planet and a planet is this: a dwarf planet is a subtype of planet, specifically, a small one that is large enough to be rounded by its own gravity but not large enough to gravitationally dominate its orbit. A planet is any non-self-luminous spheroidal body in orbit around a star, and there are many subtypes of planets.

        An asteroid is a planetoid, a tiny body orbiting a star that is not large enough to be rounded by its own gravity and therefore is shaped only by its chemical bonds. Asteroids typically are not spherical but are rocks with a variety of appearances.

      11. Saying, like many of the underworld recalcitrants in this debate elude to, little kids are crying their eyes out because little Pluto has been deleted by those evil monstrous astronomers is plainly emotive and also not science.

        Yet still, in your ranting bias, still haven’t properly read the IAU resolutions, because “roundness” is only one criteria among others.

        Pluto not been considered as a planet, historically, goes even back to the 1930s, and severe questions on the subject became difficult in the 1950s. I.e. Willem Luyten Science paper in 1956 “Pluto Not a Planet?” (Sci., 123, 896 (1956)) The early issue against Pluto being a planet was its very small mass, then its formation by accretion. It is a debate raging for more than fifty years.

        Argue with yourself if you must, but Pluto becoming a planet again is not going to happen, no matter how much you wish it were true. If you have an issue with this contact your Federal elected representative to influence the IAU delegates for your country.

        Remember, the IAU are delegates from many countries, who make decisions by international consensus NOT just one single country. (Most people against Pluto’s demotion are Americans, because they see Tombaugh as some kind of local hero and want to make ‘rally the flag’ behind the displeasure of it legitimate and final demotion of this little dwarf planet.)

        In the end, there are now eight planets. Holst and his main symphonic work are now very happy. Accept it, and please just move on. Thanx.

      12. Interesting. I haven’t ONCE said anything about “little kids crying.” You’re setting up a straw man to argue against a comment I never made.

        I have read the IAU resolutions. So have Dr. Alan Stern, Dr. Mark Sykes, Dr. Hal Weaver, Dr. David Weintraub, Alan Boyle, Dr. David Grinspoon, Dr. Ken Croswell, etc., etc. We’ve read them; we just disagree with them. There IS a difference.

        I do not accept the IAU’s third criterion. I and many astronomers, both amateur and professional, do not believe an object must gravitationally dominate its orbit to be a planet. We see small planets that are rounded by their own gravity but not large enough to gravitationally dominate their orbits as a subclass of planets. You are the one who fails to understand this.

        I am writing a book about Pluto, so I am well aware that the debate over its status dates back to 1930, not 2006. I am familiar with these studies as part of my research. For 81 years, astronomers have continued to disagree, with some considering Pluto a planet and others not considering it a planet. That is still true today.

        The claim that most people who oppose the IAU decision are Americans is not true. There are astronomers all over the world who oppose it. The US has long been a major center for planetary science, so yes, many of the world’s planetary scientists are either American or studying here. That does not mean rejecting the IAU decision is an American bias or that it has to do with Tombaugh. It is a position taken largely by planetary scientists as opposed to by other types of astronomers, for whom planets are not a priority.

        In fact, several astronomers who pushed for demotion in 2006 specifically were heard stating, “Pluto is going down because we hate US policy in the Middle East.” So the whole American vs. non-American thing came from the pro-demotion side. It is a position taken largely by planetary scientists as opposed to by other types of astronomers, for whom planets are not a priority.

        As far as I and many astronomers are concerned, Pluto never stopped being a planet. I don’t need to do any wishing, and I don’t need to rely on the IAU, which is very rapidly becoming irrelevant, given its dogmatic stance, lack of flexibility, and refusal to admit to having made a mistake or at least a premature decision. What are you going to do when a new group of International Planetary Scientists emerges and creates a different planet definition?

        The IAU demotion is not “final” nor is it binding on anyone. There is no “in the end”; you can repeat as many times as you want that “we have only eight planets” but that does not make it truth. Holst was a great musician, but he had already completed his work long before Pluto was discovered and did not want to change it. If you want to use Holst to determine what a planet is, you have to demote Earth because Holst never wrote a movement for it either.

        You do not get to tell me what to accept. I will not accept something I believe is wrong, and I will NOT move on. In fact, when I complete my degree, I might just join both the IAU and the new planetary science group and bring a new resolution before both. That is the track I am currently on.

      13. “What are you going to do when a new group of International Planetary Scientists emerges and creates a different planet definition?”

        Ignore it.

        “I might just join both the IAU…”

        They won’t let you near any General Assembly in with such blatant dogmatic attitudes you show here in this.

        Pity you don’t get the overall irony of the situation here…

      14. Funny, they had no problem inviting me to the 2009 General Assembly and allowing me to write an article about Pluto for the GA newspaper. Thankfully, most IAU members are not as intolerant and dogmatic as people on this board. They haven’t moved to expel any members, including Dr. Stern, who actively disagree with the Pluto resolution, which they know remains controversial.

        So you would ignore a decision by a planetary science group the way supporters of a geophysical planet definition ignore the IAU decision. That just means the debate continues.

  5. No, that comment does not resolve any of my concerns. Of course, the IAU’s official page will say their resolution “remains in place.” Just because the IAU does not acknowledge the fact that a large number of planetary scientists reject their resolution does not mean the latter is not true.

    Here are a few other things the IAU page does not say:

    There was a resolution 5b that would have established classical planets and dwarf planets under the umbrella category of planets. It was voted down 333-91.

    Immediately after the passage of resolution 5a, one of the delegates asked if the first footnote could be amended to include Pluto as one of the solar system’s “official planets.” He was told no; it’s too late; we already voted. This means people voted on 5a without realizing the full implications of it. If you watch the video transcripts, you can see there was tremendous confusion as to whether the footnotes officially “counted,” a point that was changed so many times that large numbers of delegates were confused.

    A large number of planetary scientists petitioned the IAU leadership to reopen the debate at the 2009 General Assembly, and they refused. In response, those planetary scientists boycotted the General Assembly. Refusal to even reopen the debate indicates an underlying insecurity by the IAU leadership with its position.

    Requring a planet orbit “the Sun” instead of “a star” at a time of rapid exoplanet discovery makes no sense and goes back to the notion that Earth and its solar system are “special” and deserve rules than all other solar systems.

    Here is the petition of astronomers who continue to reject the IAU resolution:

    Here is the link to audio transcripts of the Great Planet Debate, a professional conference held at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab in August 2008, where both the dynamical and geophysical planet definitions were extensively discussed. The end result was an official statement by participating scientists that said they would agree to disagree because there are two equally valid planet definitions, the dynamical and the geophysical:

    1. “the Sun” instead of “a star”

      Keep in mind that planets not in our system will be called exoplanets and that makes a tiny cosmetic difference. However, after long discussions with you I believe that once planets/exoplanets are in stable orbits it will be easy to decide, it will be like in our system. It really is not important if it’s sun/star or planet/exoplanet. Both words work. If you want to make a definition for every star, you can’t really use the word exoplanet. It’s tricky and funny. You have to include both in a definition by using brackets.

      1. What do you consider a stable orbit? Elliptical does not mean unstable. Many exoplanets have orbits far more elliptical than does Pluto. There should be one definition system usable for all solar systems, both ours and others. Establishing that will depend on us learning more data about exoplanets and incorporating that data into a definition that accurately encompasses the tremendous variety of objects out there, both in type and location.

      2. Well, it’s just a belief, we will see, but it’s going to be based on our current rules. I don’t expect anything radical.

        Stable orbit, I mean stable for the entire life of a star. I’m not sure what happened to that “binary exoplanet”. Some objects are not stable for more than a billion years. Some get kicked out.

        Elliptical, yeah, it’s ok, unless it’s 50 elliptical dwarf planets in Kuiper belt. If you find such a system, 50 chaotic elliptical things close to a star and stable for the entire life of a star, that will be interesting and radical change, but I’m afraid it doesn’t work like that. 😀

  6. I haven’t changed my position; I probably wasn’t clear about it in the first place, for which I apologize. Yes, I am critical of the IAU for the highly flawed process in which they passed this resolution, for rushing it through without taking the time to more thoroughly consider the issue, especially in light of exoplanet discoveries, for not allowing electronic voting, and for not allowing the debate to be reopened at th 2009 General Assembly at the request of planetary scientists.

    However, I do believe that the dynamical and geophysical definitions are equally perspectives for viewing and understanding planets. The IAU resolution does a poor job of representing the dynamical view because its language requires a planet to “clear the neighborhood of its orbit” when it would be more accurate to say “gravitationally dominate its orbit.” That is why astronomers need writers! 🙂

    The petition of dissenting planetary scientists and the Great Planet Debate of 2008 represent the first steps by those not satisfied with the IAU definition in forming a separate organization that will focus solely on planetary science and will craft its own definitions.

    It is important to note that the majority of the IAU did not vote at all on these resolutions. Of the 2,500 members who attended the General Assembly at its beginning, only 424 took part in the vote. Most left before the vote because they expected a different resolution, the one put forward by the IAU’s own committee, to be the one on the floor the day of the vote. They had no idea that a small subgroup would not only reject that resolution but would actually violate the IAU’s own bylaws by throwing together an alternative, hastily crafted resolution at the last minute, and putting it before the General Assembly on the last day of the conference. Dr. Owen Gingerich, who headed the IAU’s Planet Definition Committee, said had he known this would happen, he would have canceled his plans to leave early and would have stayed for the vote with the goal of working out a compromise.

    The IAU has 10,000 members, of which 424 voted. Only 333 voted against resolution 5b, which would have established dwarf planets as a subclass of planets. Over and over again, IAU members have asked for electronic voting so people who cannot attend the General Assembly or all of it can still have a say in such matters. As of today, the IAU continues to refuse to enact electronic voting. This is something about which I am critical of the IAU.

    Also, the overwhelming majority of IAU members, including of the 424 who voted, are not planetary scientists at all but other types of astronomers. Why should people who never study planets, whose entire careers focus on completely different areas of astronomy, be the ones to define what a planet is? As Dr. Stern says, “But it’s almost like you’ve asked the wrong group to decide. It’s as if you went to the wrong type of lawyer. Say this is a technical matter that has to do with financial law, and you went to a divorce lawyer. Well, they’re lawyers, yes, but they don’t really know the technical details of financial law. Asking the IAU to define planets, when most IAU members aren’t even planetary scientists, is just about as crazy!”

    1. You dissent because you don’t understand. You say a lot of illogical things. Also, you are a non-conformist, so you most probably enjoy it.

      You are hypocritical with your beloved “hero” Dr. Stern. On one hand you say that around 7500 people couldn’t attend/vote, and on the other Dr. Stern says that they are not competent to vote.

      1. I understand, and I dissent anyway. You seem to deem anything you disagree with as “illogical.” To clarify: Ninety-six percent of IAU members, regardless of whether they are planetary scientists or other types of astronomers, could not vote because no absentee voting was allowed. The majority of the 10,000 IAU members and of the 424 who voted, are not planetary scientists. It’s not a question of competence. Dr. Stern believes those whose research is centered on studying planets should be the ones who define the term planet, just like those who study quasars, pulsars, galaxies, etc. should be the ones to define those terms.

  7. It makes no sense to define an object solely by what neighborhood it is in, as that excludes the central issue of what the object itself is. This is not good science; good science would find a way to integrate both aspects without shortchanging either one. According to the geophysical planet definition, a moon large enough to be in hydrostatic equilibrium is still a planet, just a secondary or satellite planet. The adjective in front of the noun tells us what type of planet it is, which does depend on its location. What does not depend on its location is the question of whether an object is a planet at all. That should be based first and foremost on its intrinsic characteristics. If we have an object like Pluto that is geologically complex and in hydrostatic equilibrium, the term dwarf planet makes sense provided we use the term “dwarf” as a adjective to indicate the object is a planet but is too small to dominate its orbit.

    1. It makes sense to define an object by what neighborhood it is in and by that I mean if it’s in another subsystem. You are the one who is trying to define an object solely with just 1 parameter. Why do you shortchange other rules? So, don’t lie. You mentioned only hydrostatic equilibrium rule. A moon large enough didn’t clear its orbit alone, therefore it’s not a planet. Moon is not a planet. It’s in another subsystem. We could go for dwarf and/or giant moon categories, but I would be careful, it’s another concept, another system, I have Jupiter system in mind. 🙂

      Dwarf planet only indicates that it’s a planet. That doesn’t mean a lot. Indicates doesn’t mean it is.

      PS: It makes no sense to define an object solely because it looks like a potato. That flying potato over there is planet too! :DDDDD

      PPS: Everything doesn’t make sense. Let’s call every object potatosphere and let’s use mili micro nano…and kilo mega giga… adjectives. That’s a good science. It integrates grains of sand and giant stars.

      1. No one is saying a potato is a planet. You are injecting non sequiturs into this discussion. I thought you were a master debater. That is pretty amateur.

      2. You obviously didn’t get the PS jokes. I’ve argued enough. If new arguments show up I might reply again.

  8. Actually, the data suggests that Pluto is 7 miles wider in diameter than Eris. In 2015, we will know exactly how much larger Pluto is. In the meantime, I guess Pluto huggers like Laurel and I will have to endure much abuse from the fox who lost his grapes.

      1. Laurele is my nickname on this and various other boards, created from my first name and middle initial, Laurel E. Laurel IS a feminine name; it is the original from which Laura, Laurie, and Lauren were derived. If you’re thinking of Stan Laurel, that was a stage name, and Laurel was his last name, not his first name.

      2. You’re right, I was thinking of Stan Laurel. How silly of me!*

        *(I had too much strong lager last night!)

      3. Ivan, are you coming to Honolulu to protest the odd shananigans of the IAU at their August 2015 General Assembly? Have we made you see reason yet?

      4. I will buy you a beer if you hold up a sign in front of the Hawaii Convention Center for four hours. I get to make the sign. LOL.

    1. The difference is, I’m not mad at something on the Internet. I’m actively trying to overturn something that is genuinely wrong, something that happened in real life. I have done and continue to do the reading. I’ve enrolled in a Masters program in astronomy, have run a blog for five years, have done public presentations and written articles on the subject, and am working on a book about it. More than that, I’ve decided to go into planetary science myself. That’s hardly analogous to the situation mocked in your cartoon link.

      1. “The difference is, I’m not mad…”

        No. Just a big noting obsessive drama-queen actress with the fine art of excessive melodrama and propensity for over acting.*
        All the serious problems throughout the world and you pick this minor issue as your personal crusade. Why not invest your energy to saving our planet from climate change or learning about the evolution of the Solar System?
        Pluto (or Eris) being either planets or dwarf planets seems such a waste of displays of intelligence or wisdom. Really, Are dwarf planets any less important the planets? They are celestial bodies that are subject to foibles of human imposed morphology or want of useful systematic classification.
        Also, there is a big difference between something “genuinely wrong” or (from the words you seemingly say here) “morally wrong.”
        Whist I agree you are quite entitled to your beliefs or opinions, your arguments fail from the lack of balance – for or against – the subject at hand. It seems Pluto and Eris might be equivalent in nature. So why is that? It has little to do with our morphology of celestial bodies does it?

        * Reply to laurele’s own byline I.e. “I am a writer and actress and a proud non-conformist…”

      2. Nothing is equal. Even identical twins fall in love with different people. Eris is 7 miles less wide than Pluto. How is that equal? It is perfectly fine to object to the charade of objective science that took place in Prague. Yes, the deplanetization of Pluto fiasco is not as juicy a topic as global warming or the sodomy of Gahdafi, but it is a valid topic to address. No one is telling you what you should or should not think about or write about, what makes it so important to you to belittle laurele for wanting to address the injustice done to one of the most beloved planets of our Solar System for 76 glorious years? Have you never loved anything? Is nothing sacred to you? Don’t you have anything better to do than play Devil’s Advocate? It is obvious that Pluto was given the shaft unjustly. All injustices should be rectified. A man on death row for a crime he did not commit, as well.

      3. “equivalent” is not the same as “equal”

        “It is obvious that Pluto was given the shaft unjustly.”
        No it isn’t.

        “…charade of objective science that took place in Prague.”

        Is voting or democracy now an objective science? (Now that’s a real charade!!)

        “…the injustice done to one of the most beloved planets of our Solar System for 76 glorious years?”

        …but isn’t Pluto not considered a planet anymore?

        “Have you never loved anything?”

        Yes, but never a planet.

        “All injustices should be rectified.”

        Quote “One person’s injustice is another one’s tyranny.”
        John Adams; US President
        I’d choose neither, thank you.

        “A man on death row for a crime he did not commit, as well.”

        By your own logic here, a man is a planet, I’d assume?

        Can laurele speak for herself?

        Are you related to Sid the Cussing Rabbit?

        Sorry, but I think you’ll never make a successful lawyer!

      4. Many professional astronomers believe voting is not an appropriate way to decide things in science. The facts and repeated corroboration through experimentation are what make theories and ideas rise or fall. No one voted on relativity or gravity. Relativity has stood for 100 years because every attempt to prove it false has failed.

        Pluto IS considered a planet by plenty of professional and amateur astronomers, and I am proud to be one of them. As Dr. Stern said, planetary scientists know it is a planet and don’t need the IAU to tell them that.

        The IAU vote was unjust because it violated the group’s bylaws and was hastily conducted with a resolution too quickly thrown together for all the wrong reasons. It was wrong ethically and morally because many astronomers who left early were misled that the vote would be on the resolution approved by the IAU committee rather than on another one. It was wrong because anyone not in a specific room on a specific day–and that constitutes 96 percent of the IAU–had no say in the matter, given that electronic voting was not permitted. It was wrong in that the many planetary scientists who are not IAU members had no say in this whatsoever. It was wrong in that debate was repeatedly cut off whenever someone made a point the leadership didn’t want to hear. And it continues to be wrong because the IAU refuses to honor requests from its own members to reopen the discussion. Cutting off debate indicates an underlying insecurity in their position.

        Have you never met anyone who loved astronomy or planetary science?

      5. “The IAU vote was unjust because it violated the group’s bylaws and was hastily conducted with a resolution too quickly thrown together for all the wrong reasons. It was wrong ethically and morally because many astronomers who left early were misled that the vote would be on the resolution approved by the IAU committee rather than on another one. It was wrong because anyone not in a specific room on a specific day–and that constitutes 96 percent of the IAU–had no say in the matter, given that electronic voting was not permitted. It was wrong in that the many planetary scientists who are not IAU members had no say in this whatsoever. It was wrong in that debate was repeatedly cut off whenever someone made a point the leadership didn’t want to hear. And it continues to be wrong because the IAU refuses to honor requests from its own members to reopen the discussion. Cutting off debate indicates an underlying insecurity in their position.”

        This both wrong and is quite ridiculous and a total audacious misrepresentation of the reality or truth, to the extent that it is either fantasy, fabrication or wild delusion by you. I.e. Pluto was known at the two previous General Assemblies, and the “vote” was known for some time. They all knew what was coming.

        I do hope you do follow your dreams, but I have same sage advise for you. Don’t do your final thesis on Pluto dethroning and this astronomical “political” attack on the IAU. I guarantee you will not survive the experience as a semi-professional or professional astronomer.

        Pluto will stay demoted no matter how much you squeal about it. It is logical, proper and based on legitimate issues.

        There are now only eight planets. Just get use to it, and please, instead, work on something that might be positive and useful for the rest of us. This kind of nonsense makes you look incompetent and biassed – not good for someone who wants to dabble in the sciences.

      6. No, there are NOT only eight planets now; I will NOT “get used to it” because you want me to, and I will NOT “work on something else” because you want me too. The real irony here is how you and a few others accuse me of being dogmatic and religious when you’re the ones arguing that some self-appointed authority made a decision for all eternity that is infallible and cannot be changed. Talk about psychological projection. At least I admit this is a debate with two sides.

        Please list the specifics as to how what I am saying took place at the 2006 General Assembly is “ridiculous,” “fantasy, “fabrication,” “delusion,” and an “audacious misrepresentation” of what happened. The reality is that Dr. Owen Gingerich, who was the chair of the IAU’s appointed Planet Definition Committee, publicly admitted at the 2008 Great Planet Debate that these things took place. The delegates all did NOT know what was coming. Yes, Pluto was discussed, but everyone assumed the resolution prepared by the committee Gingerich chaired would be the one to go to the General Assembly floor. No one could have anticipated that a renegade group would have unprofessionally thrown together a different resolution after the majority of delegates had already left, in effect deceiving them.

        Please take your so-called “sage advice” somewhere else, preferably another galaxy. Pluto will not stay demoted because that decision was never logical and proper. You are angry because you wanted it to be the final word and cannot stand the fact that it isn’t, that professionals still consider this an open debate. That isn’t because of me; it’s because the IAU messed up in both the process and in the outcome of approving this resolution.

        I will do my thesis on whatever subject I choose, which will be the overturning of the fiasco of Pluto’s demotion and the case for a geophysical planet definition. Whether or not you take me seriously is not an issue. If you’re so concerned about professionalism, maybe you should question the scientific value of an astronomer staking his claim to fame on an obsession with “killing” Pluto. That same astronomer also publicly demeans Clyde Tombaugh, saying Tombaugh was not a “real astronomer” and that “he just got lucky.”

        I will work on Pluto’s planet status, which is useful and positive to me and to many others. If you think of that as “nonsense,” well, it’s a free country. Go do your own work then.

      7. You are mistaken, SJStar. Just because you say nothing was irregular at the GA in Prague does not make it so. There was a great deal fishy there and the vote was a hatchet job. Why do you insist on pretending to know that which you do not. Have you done any research on the 2006 GA in Prague at all? Have you watched the session in which the rancid resolution was ramrodded down the throats of the membership?

      8. “Have you watched the session in which the rancid resolution was ramrodded down the throats of the membership? ”

        This is irrelevant. Science will correct itself when there is a clear scientific reason to call it a planet again.

        So instead of concentrating on some conspiracy, concentrate to publish a peer reviewed science paper in explaining why Pluto should be called a planet.

      9. No, a man is not a planet. Sheesh, why don’t you do some studying regarding the vote in 2006 on your own, because you obviously are not paying attention to the salient points being made here and the facts being outlined. A member of the IAU was threatened at the 2006 GA in Prague to vote to deplanetize Pluto. Does that bother you at all?

      10. — Have you never loved anything? Is nothing sacred to you? Don’t you have anything better to do than play Devil’s Advocate? It is obvious that Pluto was given the shaft unjustly. —

        You are emotionally compromised. This is very bad for your science results. It is the direct path to pseudo-science and quackery.

        If Pluto should be called a planet then you must do this solely on the purpose of scientific fact, not how you feel.

      11. I never said Pluto should be replanetized due to my feelings. I do not know where you came up with that one, dude. The point I was making is that you are going out of your way to not understand the obvious injustice done to Pluto. Maybe you have not read all the posts, but if you did, you would know that the deplanetization of Pluto was a ramrod job and you would not so flippantly play Devil’s Advocate, as if this whole debate is a big joke to you.

      12. Of course this debate is a big joke. Calling Pluto a planet or not a planet has absolutely no influence on its size and composition. It is just a name.

        The fact that you use the word “injustice” shows again that you are emotional compromised to do science. This is the way to pseudo-science not science.

        So I repeat, if you want Pluto to be called a planet again, present your scientific reasoning in a paper and make it peer reviewed. If your scientific reasoning is valid then the science community will follow.

        Special pleading will not help your cause.

      13. You seem to like commenting without first learning all the facts. I happen to be politically active in the environmental movement and have written a lot about climate change. In fact, learning about the Earth’s environment and ecology got me started on planetary science. I am also an active supporter of Occupy Wall Street, have been to Zuccotti Park, and believe in activism as a means of changing the world. In my hometown, I volunteer on four municipally appointed commissions and help staff a food pantry.

        Yes, I am an actress and a non-conformist. Being a non-conformist means I think for myself rather than just accept what someone says because he or she is some type of “authority.” It does not mean I automatically disagree with every established position. Here in the US, we need more people learning to think and question everything they have been taught. I make decisions based on research and gathering as much information from as many sources as possible. I am not a “follow the crowd” type who just does something because everyone else is doing it.

        In your version of the world, am I not allowed to pursue a career in astronomy? There are plenty of astronomers who focus on one particular area that interests them. I want to do this with Pluto. As for learning about the evolution of the solar system, that’s why I’ve obtained a Graduate Certificate of Science in Astronomy from Swinburne University and why I plan on continuing on and getting a Masters. These classes are not easy, but they are very comprehensive with excellent instructors and wonderful classmates. Neither the instructors nor the classmates had any problems with my views about Pluto as long as I supported them with credible facts and research.

        Have you taken any courses in astronomy? Why is it any of your business what I choose to do with my time or my life? Maybe you would prefer I just watch “Jersey Shore” and dumb TV shows and conveniently stay out of this debate because as of now, I am raising a lot of issues many people seem to want to shove under the rug.

        I love astronomy; I love Pluto, and I will continue to advocate for Pluto’s planet status. You do not get to decide what I do with my life.

        Pluto and Eris do appear to be very similar in nature. I don’t know if I would say equivalent without more data on Eris, especially given that Eris is more massive and therefore more rocky. I do consider these bodies important, and I do consider these bodies planets. You do not have the right to deny someone the chance to have a career in astronomy simply because you dislike their views.

      14. — Here in the US, we need more people learning to think and question everything they have been taught. —

        I hope you are not getting into the conspiracy world because once you have crosses that line you are toast. You are completely blind for anything reality based and just chases ghosts.

        I also do not like the fact that Pluto got demoted. However, do not start a crusade against it because you feel it is unjust. Let science handle the process to determine if Pluto is a planet or not. It could take 100 years before Pluto becomes a planet again but the science process works. If you want to make Pluto a planet again, then give scientific evidence why it should be named a planet. Not some emotional based argument.

      15. Read my arguments. They are not emotional; they are science-based, centered on preference for a geophysical rather than a dynamical planet definition. It is others here who have brought emotion into the picture by resorting to personal attacks.

        I have the right to fight the demotion if I believe it is unjust. That is why I have decided to join the science world, to be a voice in this process. I am doing it by studying at an accredited university and reading the works of professionals all the way back to before 1930, which I believe is the intelligent way to do such a thing.

        What I say about the events that transpired in 2006 is based on actual research and on extensive conversations with people who were there and took part in it. I am not a conspiracy theorist; I know we landed on the Moon; there is no “face on Mars”; 9/11 was not perpetrated by the US; and nothing disastrous other than a US presidential election will happen in 2012. Sometimes things may sound like conspiracies, but they are anything but. Truth can be stranger than fiction.

      16. If you do not sound like a Conspiracy nutter or a EU proponent and you have scientific based facts on why Pluto should still be a planet then go through the science process.

        I personally would love that Pluto is a planet again, but in science personal feelings are irrelevant. And Pluto does not actually care what it is named. It’s composition will not magically alter.

      17. It’s not about personal feelings. That notion is a straw man used to discredit supporters of Pluto’s planet status. I support a geophysical planet definition because I believe first and foremost, we should define objects by what they are intrinsically rather than by where they are. Yes, their location is important, but it does not supercede what the objects are in and of themselves. Given our rapid discovery of a wide variety of planets in this and other solar systems, I believe in keeping the term planet broad to encompass the many subtypes of these objects we’re discovering. So the definition I support is that a planet is a non-self-luminous spheroidal body in orbit around a star (or having once orbited a star). The details of where the planet is and the type of planet it is can be encompassed through use of subcategories.

      18. Technically the word Planet is a translation of wandering star. In this regard Pluto including Ceres and all other asteroids are planets.

      19. I think, you didn’t quite get the point.
        The point is, you will not change the world on the internet, i.e. in this discussion. Furiously trying to do so, is quite what the comic is about. However, that this caused you to go into science and trying to raise this point at the correct platforms (e.g. probably the IAU), is good! Go for it, try it!

        What I see happening here, is in someway similar to the arguments with the EU crackpots – but different!
        The EU guys were just plain wrong about the science, had (have) an agenda trying to overturn science with a ridiculous idea. In such discussions we really had right and we had wrong.
        This is different here. Here we have mostly a discussion about believe and opinion. It mostly seems to me like:
        “I love Pluto. The IAU is so mean. Pluto must be a planet!”
        “Who cares? The current definition (may) keep(s) things simple. We leave it as it is.”

        I mean, we are at 100+ comments here. And what will be achieved? Nothing. A discussion about a scientific problem – well, that would be great. But this is nothing like that, at all. It’s all about that some people have another opinion than others, and both want to be “right”.
        Such things may occur in science from time to time, but obviously they are not scientific.

      20. My position is not “I love Pluto. The IAU is so mean.” My position is favoring a geophysical planet definition that is broad and distinguishes among different types of planets through use of subcategories. I do recognize there are two equally valid opinions, the geophysical one and the dynamical one, and I can respect the second position even though I disagree with it. Unfortunately, a few people here have resorted to personal attacks and slanderous accusations, which are not at all conducive to real discussion.

        I don’t think “nothing” is achieved through these discussions. If even one person is motivated to think about this issue and decide to study it on his or her own to find answers, then that counts as an achievement. As for changing the world via the Internet, I think movements like Occupy Wall Street have shown that such a thing is very possible.

      21. Fair enough. The Arabic spring also started via the internet. But I think, there is a difference between, let me call it, “a call for action” (like the Occupy Wall Street movement or the Arabic Spring), and a “discussion” between 2 or 3 people like this one.

        And this is the point where the cartoon comes in. In the end 3 people made a furious and heated discussion (with some mostly funny interventions by Ivan3man), all of them will stay on their position, and the discussion will eventually die with no solution or what so ever. And probably all will claim “victory”, although (almost) nothing was achieved.

      22. But this discussion isn’t dying, and it’s not limited to two or three people or to this site. It’s taking place all over the Internet and has been doing so for more than five years. Many people have learned things about Pluto, the IAU, bureaucracy, dynamicism vs. geophysics, etc. from numerous online discussions in forums, blogs, etc. More people are discovering the outer solar system and learning the nature of a modern scientific debate every day. This is the best of what John Stuart Mill called “an open marketplace of ideas.”

      23. This is all quite delusional IMO. It is an issue in the mind of someone who just cannot accept a majority decision – now five years ago.
        Really. Very few are interested if Pluto is a planet or not, and nearly all planetary astronomers have moved on to other interests. Really. Your statements are quite unproductive and rather insignificant issue to worry about.

        Please just accept and move on.

        (…and please stop trying to get the last word in! You’ve made your point, add to it or let it go.)

      24. But that’s the problem; it wasn’t a majority decision. The decision was pretty forced onto the scientific community (yay for science via press!). A relatively unknown group of scientists pretty arbitrarily demoted Pluto, and with evidence that Eris is looking more and more like Pluto it’s weakening their initial reasoning behind the demotion.

        The IAU was a step above a street preacher declaring Pluto not a planet.

      25. “…it wasn’t a majority decision”

        Yes, it was. Delegates has six years notice by the IAU Circulars that change was coming, and that a sub-committee was formed to advise the main body of the IAU. Voting is/was done by those present at the meeting where the resolutions were debated then voted upon. They were not made by ballot.
        Your quite divisive statements here are therefore mostly obvious falsehoods

      26. However, the resolution adopted on 8/24/06 was not even seen by those who voted on it until that very day! The General Assembly rejected the recommended resolution put forward by the IAU’s own committee, which had met for many months discussing this. The chair of that committee, a very well known astronomer named Dr. Owen Gingerich, said had he known that a renegade group of astronomers would throw together a resolution at the last minute without going through the proper committee and IAU procedure, he never would have left the conference early. Many other astronomers have said the same thing. They had no reason to believe the process would be totally usurped by one group at the last minute. Once the resolution recommended by the IAU committee was rejected, the proper next step should have been to postpone action until the next General Assembly in 2009. If you watch the proceedings, you will see the chaos in the room, as delegates on each side of the room were given different copies of the resolution to be voted on and told to add text and cross out other text to the point that the entire proceedings became absurd. Also, is it really too much to ask a group of professional scientists to allow electronic voting? In no world that I know do 424 out of 10,000 equal any kind of majority.

      27. How stupid is this! Only the people attending AND PRESENT at the the General Assembly can vote.
        It is not a ballot.
        (Do you acutally understand the difference?)

      28. Yes, it was a ballot, only a paper ballot. Watch the proceedings. You will see that electronic voting was discussed as an option at the opening session of the conference, and that several IAU members requested it so those who couldn’t be present on that particular day could take part in the vote.

        It’s becoming very clear that your goal is to ridicule anything I say, not to take part in a serious, respectful discussion of the issues. I have no idea who you are or what your motivation is. If you are a scientist, you know that name calling and personal attacks do not do anything for your position. You might want to consider getting a job with one of the US presidential campaigns, as your inability to focus on anything other than ad hominem attacks would fit very well with any one of them and likely get you hired on the spot.

      29. Please stop telling me what to do. No matter how many times you repeat it, I will not accept this nonsensical definition, and I have no plans to “move on.” The passage of time does not lessen the fact that this was a poor and unnecessary decision. You might want to give this advice to a certain “plutokiller” who refuses to accept the new evidence that Eris is bigger than Pluto.

        Serial_tech is right. It was NOT a majority decision. How something is done is just as important as that thing itself. People have the right to know that this was a political rather than a scientific decision. The small group that railroaded it through first came up with the conclusion they wanted–no Pluto, just eight planets–then crafted a resolution to fit that conclusion. This is no more scientific than studies funded by oil companies to prove that global warming is not real. Those cases are not science either because they start with a presupposed conclusion and then manipulate the data to say what they want.

        If so few astronomers and members of the public are interested in Pluto, why do books, articles, and talks on the subject continue to generate widespread attention? The reality is, many people ARE interested in Pluto’s planet status and look forward to data from the New Horizons flyby and the surprises it will add to our knowledge of this fascinating world. The outer solar system is a fascinating place that is now being studied by many planetary scientists, and I am excited to be in the process of joining them.

      30. This is even more delusional. Clearly you have become so biassed and twisted in your one way thinking you can’t accept the fact that Pluto is now considered a dwarf planet and not a planet.
        This is the case whether you agree with it or not.
        You or others may want to revert this, but this doesn’t the fact that Pluto is now not considered a plant but is a dwarf planet.
        All your posturing does change this fact!!

      31. The same way all your posturing does not change the fact that many professional astronomers view dwarf planets as a subclass of planets. All YOUR posturing does not change that and does not change the fact that the IAU definition did not “take” among a majority of planetary scientists. I can accept the reality, which is that astronomers are divided over the status of Pluto. Let’s see what happens when the New Horizons flyby occurrs in 2015.

      32. The New Horizons flyby isn’t going to change the fact that Pluto doesn’t gravitationally dominate it’s orbit.

        See, you’re getting worked up over semantics, meanwhile Pluto is just trucking along as it has been for billions of years completely oblivious. You say this and that about how you just think the classification is wrong. This is not possible. This determination itself chooses what’s right and what’s wrong in this instance. However, you reply in such a heated and defensive manner as if they kicked your pet dog and called it a mutt.

        Also, it doesn’t matter if Eris is bigger than Pluto or not…it’s not size that is the question. At least not directly. If they do not dominate their orbital path, then that is that. It’s all well and fine to feel that the current definition needs further refinement, but this anger and resentment shouting conspiracies and the like is rather pathetic and pointless. I would even agree that they need to broaden planetary classifications, but the current one is not ‘wrong’, nor could it be. They have not insulted anyone or anything, merely created a subclass in our definitions to better fit the characteristics of the plutoids and other dwarf planets.

        I guess this is what we get for having something in our solar system share its name with a popular Disney character. If they had come and said that ‘planet’ by itself would refer to the terrestrial worlds and Jupiter, etc, were now Jovian planets, nobody would have cared. But start calling Mickey less than enough and them be fighting words.

      33. Again, these are straw man arguments. No one is “getting worked up,” or “heated and defensive,” “full of resentment,” etc. And this has nothing to do with the Disney dog. It has to do with a perspective that does not require an object to gravitationally dominate its orbit to be a planet. Saying the IAU determination itself chooses what is right and wrong amounts to arguing from authority. No one group or person has the power to determine what is right and wrong. Relativity is not right because Einstein says so; it’s right because the facts bear it out over and over through repeated experiments. In this case, the fact remains that many planetary scientists prefer a geophysical over a dynamical planet definition. Actually, the IAU resolution is not so much “wrong” as it is flawed. It is flawed due to the problematic process by which it was adopted, the exclusion of the voices of many leading planetary scientists in that process, and in its not being broad enough. It presumes the existence of only two types of planets–terrestrials and jovians–instead of the possibility that there are at least three (types the third being dwarf planets) and possibly more types.

        Our views are actually a lot closer to one another than you might think. What I and many planetary scientists want to see is a broadening of the definition to include a wider variety of planetary bodies, including small planets that don’t gravtitationally dominate their orbits (again, this would be a simple amendment establishing dwarf planets as a subclass of planets, with the “dwarf” as an adjective indicating they are not gravitationally dominant); and the many types of exoplanets that have been discovered, including giant planets with 2:3 resonant orbits like Neptune and Pluto, two planets that share the same orbit, planets that orbit their stars backwards, planets with comet-like orbits, etc.

      34. Gee. Is my English so bad that you really didn’t understand that

        this discussion

        meant THIS SPECIFIC DISCUSSION IN THIS THREAD OF THIS FORUM OF THIS SPECIFIC WEBSITE which is called, and which has now more than 160 comments, which is more than we ever had with the EU promoters?

    2. It’s kind of interesting to me, but not much for others I guess. Sorry. I learned some things along the way. I’ll try to cut it down. I might reply to new arguments or just make a fun out of her. It’s also political and I love that. She is building a career on it, I tried to get it out of her head, but it’s difficult with demagogic and radical non-conformists. 😀

      1. So you have a problem with the fact that I want to build a career on studying Pluto and similar small outer solar system planets? Why is that?

      2. Maybe, you should concentrate more on acting career, literature or simply art. You are not good enough for science. You are a reject. You are on a path to sell dogmatic books to religious people and that’s not a respectable career. Your non-conformism is childish, it limits and blinds you.

      3. Good job at being a schoolyard bully, not so good at making a logical argument. Thankfully, you are not the arbiter of who gets to have a career in astronomy. In fact, you sound like you’re projecting your own feelings of being a reject onto me. Why does it bother you that I am pursuing this goal? Obviously, the university at which I am studying, where I have consistently earned very good grades and am routinely praised for making significant contributions to class discussions, does not agree with you.

  9. I wish that some notable satirists were alive to comment on this. Jonathan Swift, Gilbert and Sullivan and the recently departed George Carlin come to mind. Carlin had an armchair interest in these things, and I am sure he could come up with some firecracker comments over this kerfuffle of a tempest in a toy teapot.

    If I were to voice a critique of this reclassification of Pluto and related planets as dwarf planets, it that maybe this did not go far enough. After all, terrestrial planets and gas giants are physically very different types of objects. So maybe the whole nomenclature needed to be reworked.

    However, none of this has one whit of bearing upon what exists in our solar system, and presumably other ones where there are similar arrangements of planets or what might be called terrestrials, jovians and plutoids. Further, this is a hairsplitting case of absurdity, which has no real basis on scientific research. Folks, there are far deeper issues to ponder and question than this.


    1. This may not have a bearing on what exists in our solar system, but it certainly has a bearing on how we as people understand what exists in our solar system and how we transmit that understanding. Of course this is about people. Nature doesn’t come in neat and tidy packages. And you’re absolutely right; many have questioned a classification system that puts Earth and Jupiter in the same category but excludes Pluto and Eris. Earth can be said to be more like Pluto and Eris than like Jupiter, as Earth, Pluto and Eris all have solid surfaces, all have nitrogen in their atmospheres, and all are geologically differentiated into core, mantle, and crust. Both Earth and Pluto have large moons formed via giant impacts. In contrast, Jupiter’s composition is much more akin to that of the Sun; it has no solid surface, and it has its own mini-solar system of moons and rings that formed with the giant planet.

      That’s the point: the whole nomenclature system needs to be reworked and done so in a careful, deliberative process that seeks as many viewpoints as possible, not one that centers on throwing something together as quickly as possible just to show that a General Assembly got something done.

      1. I think that a part of the reason for demoting Pluto, is that with there now being Eris and Sedna and other bodies with alpha-numeric designations the solar system could grow to have hundreds of planets. It is similar to what happened with Jupiter, which now has some 70 odd moons. This would make those 4th graded astronomy classes interesting! So now there are eight planets and a host of these icy little guys out there.


      2. First, these little planets are not “icy little guys!” Pluto is estimated at 70 percent rock, and Eris, being even more dense, likely has a higher percentage of rock. Second, I again emphasize there are not only eight planets. Limiting the number of planets, or of moons of planets, simply for convenience is not science! Do you hear anyone proposing to demote most of Jupiter’s moons because we can’t have more than four? Memorization is not even important for learning. At one time, we knew little else than the names of the planets and their order from the Sun, so learning centered on memorizing names. Today, we know so much more, so it makes a lot more sense to forget memorizing names and teaching kids–and adults–to understand the defining features of each subclass of planet and name one or two planets in this category. We don’t ask kids to memorize the moons of Jupiter or the names of Earth’s rivers or mountains. I recommend you read Alan Boyle’s book “The Case for Pluto,” including the section at the end about how to talk to kids about planets. He favors saying we have four (terrestrials) plus four (jovians) plus more (dwarf planets). There is no need for a specific number, as it will keep on changing as more discoveries are made. Eventually, as more exoplanet systems are discovered, everyone will realize that the same way the universe has billions of galaxies and billions of stars, it also has billions of planets. Our solar sytem alone may have 100 and counting!

      3. “Second, I again emphasize there are not only eight planets.”

        Are you slightly nuts? There are only eight planets in the Solar System.

        The rest of what you say here is really emotive unrelated irrelevancy.


        Why can’t you accept that?

        Until the decision is overturned, it remains 110% true that there are only eight planets.

        End of the line…

      4. Just because you keep repeating statements like “End of the line,” “Case Closed,” etc., does not make these statements reality.

        Your precious decision was made by 333 people, out of 424 present, out of a membership of 10,000, who voted that dwarf planets are not planets. It is not the unalterable word of God. As Dr. Mark Sykes, says, “the IAU is not Holy Mother Church, speaking ex cathedra.”

        I don’t need the decision to be overturned to recognize that our solar system has more than eight planets. I accept that some people such as yourself believe it has only eight planets, but at the same time, I recognize that this is only one viewpoint in an ongoing debate. For the IAU, it’s four percent true.

        You say you will choose to ignore any decision made by a new group of planetary scientists. Similarly, I and many others choose to ignore and/or disagree with the IAU decision.To those of us who uphold a geophysical planet definition, the solar system has four terrestrials planets, four jovian planets, and somewhere between five and eight dwarf planets (which are a subclass of planets) and counting.

        If you’re certain of your convictions, why does it bother you so much that some people disagree?

      5. Nice try. I’ve presented my position about the weaknesses of the IAU definition and the benefits of a geophysical planet definition quite clearly. My motives are to work with planetary scientists to establish a better and more useful planet definition. There is nothing irrational about that. What is irrational is your obsession with what I am doing. It clearly bothers you, and you should try to determine why. Most people, if they believe what you do about another person’s position, would simply ignore it. Do you spend this much time debating Harold Camping about when the world will end? I’ve been honest about my pursuing a career in planetary science and my love of astronomy. Why are Pluto and the IAU so important to you?

      6. Examples of crazy claims–all by Mike Brown:

        “I killed Pluto”~Darth Vader fantasy???
        “Clyde Tombaugh wasn’t a real astronomer. He just got lucky.” ~ Envy???
        “As long as I am alive, Pluto will never again be a planet.”~ Yes, that’s very professional and very scientific.

      7. The three fold classification does make more scientific sense. However, my sense is that this does not matter a whole lot. The passions which have been generated over this matter are themselves something I find amusing.


      8. “Of course this is about people.”

        …and there is the crux of the problem.

        Before you were berating us about the science, then you berated us all for the IAU decision making, now you are berating us on apparent emotions of people.

        It is clear you will do anything or say anything to support you argument that frankly seems quite irrational obsession.

        To me, you lost the argument when you decided (and continue) to grossly slander the IAU – for what insane reason I really don’t know. You portray the organisation among the public as being some radical organisation, when its own “mission to promote and safeguard the science of astronomy through international cooperation.”

        All you, and others reading this, general questions can be found in their on-line article “Pluto and the Developing Landscape of Our Solar System” @

        They clearly say;

        “Such decisions and recommendations are not enforceable by any national or international law; rather they establish conventions that are meant to help our understanding of astronomical objects and processes. Hence, IAU recommendations should rest on well-established scientific facts and have a broad consensus in the community concerned.”

        They do, thus making your words mostly a “storm in a teacup.”

        (If you must blame anyone, it is the “Planet Definition Committee of the IAU Executive Committee.” NOT the General Assembly of XXVI. i also see little interest in the IAU to revert the decision. Why is that?)

      9. I am not berating anyone; if anyone here is adopting a hostile tone, it is those berating me. I do not hate or slander the IAU. I do criticize the actions of four percent of the IAU on 8/24/06 and the continuing refusal of the IAU leadership to reopen the debate.

        From a geophysical standpoint, yes, the science of the IAU resolution is highly flawed. So is the process by which the IAU made this decision. I stand by both those statements and have presented scientific arguments for why this definition is flawed and a better one is needed.

        A lot of people here are taking statements out of context deliberately as a desperate measure in their own arguments. My being a non-conformist has no bearing on this issue. It is about life choices and the fact that I make those choices based on my own desires, not on what society wants. When I said “of course, this is about people,” I was specifically answering the claim that Pluto does not care what we call it. That is a spurious argument. No one is saying Pluto does care; what we are saying is that what matters is that a definition do a good job in facilitating people’s understanding of the solar system. We can’t change what Pluto is, but we can influence how people perceive Pluto, and this should be taken into account by anyone who is working on crafting a classification system.

        I read that statement you quote a long time ago and find it interesting that you recognize the IAU admits it cannot enforce its definitions on anyone. That contradicts your earlier statements that say the IAU has spoken, end of story. Even the IAU recognizes there are many who do not and will not accept its definition.

        I don’t blame the Planet Definition Committee, as they did their job thoroughly. Why blame them? It was the 26th General Assembly that violated the IAU’s bylaws by putting a resolution before the General Assembly without first vetting it by the proper IAU committee.

        The argument for Pluto’s planet status is not “lost.” As I said earlier, this isn’t even about winning and losing. The argument continues, and if the IAU wants to remain relevant in this area, the responsible choice is to reopen the discussion based on the new information about Eris, Pluto, and exoplanets, and keep the discussion open ended to incorporate new data as it is discovered. Knowing the rapidity of these discoveries, it would make sense for such resolutions to be enacted only for the three-year periods between General Assemblies, with the recognition that new data will necessitate constant updating and changing of current classification systems.

      10. The key paper that lead to the change of planet status by the IAU was a paper to the IAU Symposium “The Transneptunian Population” on 11th August 2000

        “Pluto: an Edgeworth-Kuiper Belt object and/or a planet?” by Michael F.A’Hearn (University of Maryland) (See )

        The Abstract reads;

        “The proposal to catalog Pluto with other trans-Neptunian objects (TNOs) led to considerable controversy within the community. There are obvious dynamical reasons for considering Pluto as the largest TNO, while there are also obvious physical reasons for considering it a planet. In this review we will consider the reasons for classifying things at all, the role of borderline individuals in classification systems, and other examples of difficult classifications. The conclusion is that in many case, including the case of Pluto, the only sensible approach is to use dual classifications.”

        This was also supported by the observational paper; “Physical characteristics of Trans-Neptunian and related objects.” by outer-Solar System specialist, Dave Jewitt (Same Reference.)

        It was recommended at this meeting the discussions on Pluto really being a planet should be resolved by the IAU. The concept and intention was made perfectly clear at the IAU General Assembly in 2000!! I.e. It was not a hasty decision nor a ‘hidden” agenda.

        Them’s the ‘inconvient’ facts, my dear…

        End of story…

      11. Anything from 2000 predates the discovery of Eris, so there go the arguments about there being so many objects just like Pluto in the Kuiper Belt. This debate has in fact been around since Pluto’s discovery in 1930. However, it did not make the agenda of the IAU General Assembly in 2000.

        Interestingly, in the paper you quote, A’Hearn recommends the position that I support–dually classing objects like Pluto as both planets and TNOs/KBOs. Planet tells us what they are, and TNO/KBO tells us where they are. A’Hearn even says, “there are obvious physical reasons for considering it a planet.” Clearly, you like to pick and choose not just studies, but portions of studies, while ignoring other sections of those studies, in trying to make your point.

        Also in 2000, Dr. Alan Stern and Dr. Hal Levison co-wrote “Regarding the Case for Planethood and Proposed Planetary Classification Scheme” for Transactions of the IAU. In this study, they divided planets into two subclasses: “uberplanets,” the big ones that gravitationally dominate their orbits, and “unterplanets,” the small planets that don’t gravitationally dominate their orbits. They never proposed that “unterplanets” not be considered planets at all.

  10. Wow laurele (Laurel Kornfield / plutosavior). What level of obsession do we have here. You have set up a network of sites and just to make the topic more important than it really is!

    You have been a very busy lass. I mean on “The Portal to the Universe” has 110 entries back to 2009. @

    You’re the kind of person who thinks changing people’s minds is using kids. ‘i’.e. As “Hate Mail From Third Graders” (See letter in the Interactive!)

    On 24th August 2011, you actually wrote this!!

    “Psychologist Carl Jung believed that symbols and myths connect people with subconscious levels of meaning that transcend logic and reason. Such symbols and myths inspire art, literature, music, and imagination. I believe Pluto has become one of those enigmas larger than itself and larger than life, compelling, motivating, inspiring people of all ages and levels of education. This is the je ne sais quoi phenomenon that those who keep repeating louder and louder that Pluto is dead and that we should “get over it,” do not comprehend.”

    or even; “The Enduring Power of Pluto” @

    “I personally believe these works of art and outreach events are testimony to the enduring power and appeal of Pluto. The actual planet may be tiny, but its power to inspire and touch people to such a deep level makes it anything but a dwarf. Pluto was wrongly demoted, and the world reacted with an outpouring of love.” or

    “Pluto, like the rest of the solar system, like nature, like spirituality, is the heritage of us all. No one group, no matter how educated, should be given the power to play God in setting boundaries of what is in and what is out. The word planet cannot and should not be scientifically defined because it belongs not to science alone, but to humanity. Scientists can make themselves useful here by addressing the subcategories or classifications of types of planets, not by setting arbitrary definitions based on political and personal motivations.”


    “I have seen the power of Pluto at work in so many areas, in so many ways. And because I have seen it, I believe more than ever that this demotion will not stand and urge all who believe likewise to keep hope for Pluto alive. Pluto is a planet, always has been, and always will be, 1930-forever.”

    They do say the truth will set you free. Now we all know.

    1. After reading all that, I think that laurele sounds more like a bloody astrologer rather than an astronomer!

    2. Portal to the Universe is a directory of astronomy blogs organized by the IAU for the International Year of Astronomy in 2009! The site automatically takes feeds from member blogs and posts them on the PTTU site.

      I am not “using children” and was not involved in the letter writing campaign by third graders that Tyson discusses. However, I will point out that even Tyson has moved to a more middle-of-the-road stand on this issue, as in his TV production “The Pluto Files,” he admits the debate is still ongoing. He has added a plaque saying this to the Hayden Planetarium’s solar system display.

      In five years, I have written about many aspects of the Pluto debate, including the psychological one. What is wrong with attempting to understand a clear public fascination with this planet? Even PhDs in astronomy have included cultural references and issues in their books. Tyson talks about the Disney dog, and Brown spends a lot of time discussing his personal life. Dava Sobel in her book “The Planets” talks about the solar system from a multiplicity of perspectives, including history, culture, art, mythology, science fiction, etc.

      As someone with a literary background, I make no apologies for invoking literature, art, culture, history, and mythology in my discussions about Pluto and the unusual worldwide interest it continues to generate. These are not scientific arguments, but they speak to the human side of this issue. At the same time, I have made a lot of posts discussing the planetary science and the latest discoveries in the field. This blog is multidisciplinary in its approach, and I don’t need to apologize for that. It’s a blog, not an article for a professional science journal (which I would write very differently and have practiced for class research assignments).

      I most certainly am not an astrologer. Of course, you could use the fact that as an actress, I played an astrologer at a Renaissance Faire and that I played a paranormal investigator in a film if you’re that determined to cherry pick information from my background out of context just to discredit me. Again, one has to ask, why do you care so much?

      1. No. You don’t need to give apologies. However, you do need upfront and openly honest in what you aim to do and say. Literary skills are one thing, how you use them is another. Being open and balanced is the key, but you have not been very exemplary in what you say here, methinks..

  11. ..and here is the real ‘cruncher.’

    Here is the response to the “Please Save Pluto” petition to the IAU, @ whose webpage was seemingly created in September 2006. (

    Not one single person has submitted to it! Wow! ‘(So much for the laurele’s contention that;

    “If even one person is motivated to think about this issue and decide to study it on his or her own to find answers, then that counts as an achievement.”

    It seems our actress is very much alone in this grand quest!

      1. If you can access Yahoo Groups, another page “The Pluto Heresy” @

        There are thirty-three only posts between 2006-2008. None since.

        It says in the “Description”;

        “This is the forum for the backlash.”

        So much for ‘new revolution’ and the world wanting to upturn the IAU decision!! 😮

      2. I am a member of that group but not the organizer/moderator. Contrary to your belief, I do not run or control every pro-Pluto web site in existence.

    1. This is not my petition. I put links in my blog to many petitions about Pluto, but that does not mean I control those websites. This site appears to currently be inactive. I have not removed anything.

      I do circulate a hard copy petition in support of the petition of professional astronomers who rejected the IAU decision. A round of those was sent to the 2009 IAU General Assembly, and another one already containing numerous signatures will be sent to the General Assembly next year. On Facebook, I am administrator of a cause “Bring Pluto Back,” which has 1655 members, nearly four times the number of astronomers who voted at the 2006 General Assembly. Many of those 1655 members are astronomers.

      I am not the organizer or webmaster of every site advocating Pluto’s reinstatement, including those whose links I post on my blog. Feel free to check out , , , , and . None of these are mine. Apparently, there are many other people who care about Pluto.

  12. laurele said;

    “It’s becoming very clear that your goal is to ridicule anything I say, not to take part in a serious, respectful discussion of the issues. I have no idea who you are or what your motivation is. If you are a scientist, you know that name calling and personal attacks do not do anything for your position. You might want to consider getting a job with one of the US presidential campaigns, as your inability to focus on anything other than ad hominem attacks would fit very well with any one of them and likely get you hired on the spot.”

    I’ve made no name calling here but have mostly responded your quite over the top and unnecessary excessive melodrama. The precepts of your held position of Pluto being a planet or a dwarf planet (or whatever else) is just so over the top it is hard not to question your sincerity or even your sanity. Disagreeing is one thing, but you have turned this into a personal crusade that makes little or no sense. Who are the suffering victims here?
    I think you are pandering to formal or conceptual semantics just for the sake of it – probably unknowingly doing it for attention seeking. Geophysical or astronomical planet definitions are meaningless when you also dabble and mix-in quite unrelated emotive reasoning. It makes any formal arguments look weak and, frankly, ego driven.
    Pluto will stay a dwarf planet, and this will not like change in the near-future no matter what you say or do. If people wish to waste their energies on such trivialities that is your choice, but don’t bemoan when people don’t take you seriously. Emeritus Professor or rank amateur – you still look somewhat silly.
    After reading what you have to say in this storyline makes me think the IAU has, even for the wrong reasons, made the absolute correct decision. If the decision were the other way, there would still be individuals saying this decision was wrong too. The IAU, in the end, made a compromise to satisfy as many as possible. (I, for one, aren’t losing any sleep at night.)

    Let the development and discoveries in astronomy move on.

    I’ll take no more notice of your unnecessary parens patriae bleating.
    Thank you.

    1. No, I will take part in the development and discoveries in astronomy. You see and hear what you want to see and hear and ignore everything else. This is not about “emotive” anything; it is about two equally valid views of understanding the solar system. Additionally, there is the separate though relevant issue of people’s unusual interest in Pluto and why Pluto is so compelling to so many. That part is psychology and culture, and they are not mutually exclusive. You seem to have fantasies about dictating definitions to the world. Maybe you’re angry that the 2006 resolution has not succeeded the way you wanted. The fact is, there is a strong case for dwarf planets being planets, and I will continue to advocate it. Whatever you say is irrelevant to me; you haven’t even demonstrated an interest in astronomy other than a slavish devotion to the IAU, right or wrong. Whether you like it or not, and whether by the IAU or by another group, this decision will be revisited.

      1. …now your just getting hysterical. (We would not expect that kind of bitter behaviour from a tante, let alone the IAU, now would we?)

Comments are closed.