Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

And then there were eight...

It is a sad day on what was the smallest, coldest planet on the solar system. It's still small and cold, but it's not a planet any more. As the NY Times reports, the International Astronomical Union has kicked the smallest planet of the fold and declared to instead be one of three "dwarf planets":
In the new solar system, there are eight planets, at least three dwarf planets and tens of thousands of so-called “smaller solar system bodies,” like comets and asteroids.

For now, the dwarf planets include, besides Pluto, Ceres, the largest asteroid, and an object known as UB 313, nicknamed Xena, that is larger than Pluto and, like it, orbits out beyond Neptune in a zone of icy debris known as the Kuiper Belt. But there are dozens more potential dwarf-planets known in that zone, planetary scientists say, and the number in that category could quickly swell....

According to the new rules a planet meet three criteria: it must orbit the Sun, it must be big enough to gravity to squash it into a round ball, and it must have cleared other things out of the way in its orbital neighborhood. The latter measure knocks out Pluto and Xena, which orbit among the icy wrecks of the Kuiper Belt, and Ceres, which is in the asteroid belt.

Memorization of the solar system for the world's second graders just got 1/9th easier, a concept they can appreciate once they master fractions a year or two down the road.


F. S. Poesy said...

Memorization of the solar system won't be much easier if we don't come up with a new mnemonic. "My Very Excellent Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas" doesn't work anymore. But all is not lost. I'm running a little contest on my blog to see if we can come up with a new mnemonic. You should come over and try your hand at it.

CMinor said...

How about My Very Excellent Mother Just Served Us Noodles?
I just hope they don't decide to make Xena a planet--and keep the name!

Bernard Brandt said...

Heinlein's mnemonic (from Have Space Suit, Will Travel) wouldn't work under the new iteration either:

Mother very thoughtfully made a jelly sandwich under no . . . (protest).

And who really cares about the opinion of two hundred and seventy six nerds who eschew late night TV, anyhow?