Interview with Mike Brown

In case you missed it, here’s our interview with Caltech astronomer Mike Brown. Mike and his team discovered Eris and many other large objects in the Kuiper Belt. We talked about Pluto and Eris, of course, but also about Mike’s other favorite objects in the Solar System like Europa and Titan.

9 Replies to “Interview with Mike Brown”

  1. These dwarf planets probably play a role in the development of solar systems in general. I would imagine that most of these extra solar systems have these cryogenic dwarf-planets in their outer regions. It would be interesting if these could be found orbiting another star. Of course given their large orbital radii they will be difficult to detect.

    The different chemical make up of Eris and Pluto, one primarily rocky and the other ice, seems to point to a complex process in their formation. The outer solar system did not have a homogeneous and isotropic distribution of chemical elements.


    1. Actually, both Pluto and Eris are primarily made of rock. Pluto is estimated to be about 70 percent rock, and Eris, being denser, likely has an even higher percentage of rock.

  2. I love Mike Brown. He’s talkative and engaging without being over bearing and just a smidge of goofball keeping him relatable to layman (like myself). If you haven’t read “How I Killed Pluto….” you really should.

    1. Brown did NOT “kill” Pluto, and it is a shame he chooses to portray himself this way as opposed to the discoverer of a planet, Eris. Yes, there are many more than five dwarf planets in the solar system, but dwarf planets are planets too, in spite of the controversial ruling by four percent of the IAU. Brown seems to want it both ways–he accepts the IAU view when it suits him but then rejects their view when it doesn’t suit him. Clearing or dominating its orbit was never a requirement for an object to be a planet. That was an artificial, contrived requirement that a group of dynamicists insisted on in the middle of the 2006 IAU General Assembly, and then proceeded to rush through the GA on the last day. Even spherical moons of planets are essentially planets themselves, as they are in hydrostatic equilibrium and are geologically complex, differentiated into core, mantle, and crust just like the primary planets are. That is why Dr. Alan Stern proposes calling them “satellite planets.” Interestingly, Stern is the person who initially coined the term “dwarf planet,” but he intended for it to refer to a third class of planets in addition to terrestrials and jovians, small planets that orbit stars and are large enough to be rounded by their own gravity but not large enough to gravitationally dominate their orbits. He never intended for dwarf planets to not be considered planets at all.

      For the view advocating that dwarf planets are planets, check out the terrific book, “The Case for Pluto” by Alan Boyle.

      1. What’s that got to do with Scott’s comment? He was recommending the book, not making a statement about its title.

  3. Great interview you guys… Keep em coming! It’s good to see public outreach from the science community – Many thanks Mr. Brown, well spoken dude~

  4. Mike Brown co-discovered Pluto with two others who never get credit from him and rarely from his interviewers. They actually have names, too. Chad Trujillo and David Rabinowitz. Current data suggests Pluto is at least 7 miles larger in diameter and when NASA’s New Horizons spaceprobe gets to Pluto in July 2015, it will “barring a mishap” to quote Alan Stern, Principal Investigator of the New Horizons mission, measure Pluto’s diameter.

    It would be nice if Chad and David were interviewed now and then, too. It is called solid journalism. Why Mike Brown is allowed to hide the fact that they, too, have as much credit in the discovery of Eris is a black eye to the field of journalism. You can confirm their co-discoverer status on Wikipedia.

    Pluto has four known moons, by the way. Mike Brown’s hatred of Pluto is so intense he even tries to make that fact somehow a bad thing on this interview. He did not kill Pluto, and such a statement coming from a scientist is embarrassing.

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