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Common sense planets

Published by Sigurd De Keyser on Tue Nov 22, 2005 1:02 am
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by Joseph Baneth Allen; What constitutes a planet?

It’s a question that a special committee of the International Astronomical Union (IAU) has been struggling to answer for nearly two years with no clear resolution in sight. Working diligently ever since the discovery of Sedna in the outer reaches of the solar system back in November 2003, the 19-member IAU committee has yet to reach a majority consensus on a simple definition that outlines the basic characteristics of a planet. What should have been a relatively simple question to answer is now threatening to turn all IAU members into very public laughingstocks.

Most elementary school children already know that a planet is a rocky and/or gaseous gravity-bound sphere that orbits a star. Members of the IAU special planet definition committee seem to be unable, or unwilling, to grasp this simple grade-school concept. The end result, after about two years of probably highly contentious meetings, is three possible definitions of what constitutes a planet. In very public airings of the committee’s very dirty laundry, it’s aptly apparent that no simple majority of the IAU can agree on just one definition of what a planet is. Read more at The Space Review.

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