Thursday, August 24, 2006

Breaking News - Solar System Loses a Planet

So you were brought up to believe there are nine planets? Well, you were apparently lied to. Not uncommon these days. Pluto, the once ninth planet has gone the way of the planet Alderaan, destroyed by the Death Star in Star Wars. But Pluto was not blown out of the heavens, nor struck by a comet, but demoted by the International Astronomical Union, IAU, meeting in Prague this month.

Earlier in their meeting, there was talk of defining a planet as basically an object which is round. So a basketball could be put in orbit and it would be a planet. Actually, there was a little more to it, a planet would be a body which is round due only to gravitation force and was in orbit around a star. Under this definition Pluto would have stayed a planet, but there would hundreds of planets added. No Ice Ball Left Behind. Now that would have been not exclusive enough. Not just any celestial object can be a planet. I say there should be a totally arbitrary definition making planets the size of Pluto or larger.

Here is the new definition.
RESOLUTION 5A The IAU therefore resolves that planets and other bodies in our Solar System be defined into three distinct categories in the following way:
(1) A 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, and (c) has cleared the neighborhood around its orbit.
(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, (c) has not cleared the neighborhood around its orbit, and (d) is not a satellite.
(3) All other objects orbiting the Sun shall be referred to collectively as "Small Solar System Bodies".

So Pluto isn't good enough. Well, I'll cast my lot with Pluto. If Pluto is not considered a planet, then I'm not a planet either. Maybe Neptune should be demoted since it hasn't swept Pluto out of its orbit. What about Mars and Jupiter, they're around a asteroid belt that hasn't been swept away. So clearly Jupiter shouldn't be a planet, even though its the largest object next to the sun in this solar system. This is outrageous. While we're at it, let's demote Australia from continent to island. It's really been ambiguous anyways. What did Pluto ever do to us? I call upon the UN to pass a resolution threatening economic sanctions against the IAU if they do not stop there unprovoked war on Pluto. These hostilities cannot stand.

Now this is not the first time a planet has been demoted. Ceres discovered at the turn of the 1800s was demoted about 150 years ago to an asteroid. But I for one will not stand for being governed by arbitrary precedents. If we must admit Ceres as a planet to keep Pluto a planet, so be it.

What really is appalling is the political maneuvering by the Pluto haters. Some 2,500 astronomers attended this convention, but the vote wasn't until the last day, and so only 425 voted. Even more appalling, there are about ten thousand astronomers around the globe, so this was only 5% of all astronomers. Ever heard of a quorum? Imagine if we elected the president with 5% of the population, that wouldn't be acceptable. Those anti-plutonians should be ashamed of their selves.

What the IAU has done here with their tier classification system is create second class citizens of the celestial realm. Sure, they disguised it as "dwarf planets," but we know what they really mean, second class planets. Will these dwarf planets be given the same rights and privilege that the first class planets get under the Constitution. I doubt it. Why not have a Three-fifths Compromise and count these "dwarf planets" as three-fifth planets? Sound familiar, that's because that's it is. The founding fathers of the US counted slaves as three-fifths persons. Was that right, of course not. Neither is counting planets as anything less than full-fledged planets right. The IAU is a bunch of planetists, and they know it. The words of Yoda come to mind, "size matters not." (Actually size does matter and not every celestial object should become a planet, but that's beside the point.)

Why not let the celestial bodies themselves decide who is and isn't a planet through a constitutional , representative democracy? It's the American thing to do. We should go liberate them, set up an interim government which will be the transition to a sovereign celestial government, the UPSS, or United Planets of the Solar System. There could be the Planetary Congress, and the Secretary General of the UPSS would rotate between the nine different planets. A new planet could be added with the unanimous consent of all 9 planets, forming the Planetary Security Council.

Why don't we while we're at it just declare a planet to be only those who are in Gustav Holst's Orchestral Suite "the Planets?" Then, Pluto won't be a planet, and neither will Earth. Besides we all know that the Earth is better than all those other planets. Earth is really too good to be classified with any other celestial object. Let's declare the Earth the center of the universe. It's not like we don't act like we are anyways, deciding who makes the cut in the celestial dodge ball game.

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