THE ASTRONOMERS MUST HAVE DECIDED NOT TO GIVE IN TO THEIR SOMEWHAT LESS SCIENTIFIC FRIENDS IN THE ASTROLOGY LOBBY.
EITHER THAT, OR THEY'RE ALL BEING PAID OFF BY THE SCHOOL BOOK PUBLISHING INDUSTRY, WHICH WILL NOW BE REPUBLISHING SCIENCE BOOKS TO REFLECT THE NEW REALITY.
PLUTO IS NO LONGER A PLANET! GASP! (See one story below)
ALL THOSE PLANETARY PERSONALITY PEOPLE PRESUMABLY WILL NO LONGER BE ABLE TO TELL CLIENTS "MARS IS INTERSECTING WITH THE PLANET PLUTO" AND THAT'S WHY YOUR LIFE IS FALLING APART.
Or whatever it is astrologers say to people who insist on believing their lives are governed by celestial bodies of rock that are millions of miles away.
Personally, I am crushed. Like millions of other people -- nay, billions -- I was educated to believe there were nine planets and that poor old Pluto was the dinky little one on the outer edges.
The Li'l Guy Who Could, like Thomas the train engine or whatever he's called, or Tugboat Willy.
But now the astronomers, wary of fabricating other orbs into planets and increasing the # to 12, have opted to plunk our beloved Pluto into Planetary Purgatory.
Oh, the pain. Now the astrologers will come up with some clever solution, no doubt, to their conundrum. The publishers would have prevailed, I suppose, no matter what. One less or three more.
What do you think? Should we start a worldwide PLUTO'S A PLANET campaign to preserve the Cold, Old, Poop? Or just accept that these guys are the Lords of the Galaxy and be done with it?
The story (edited a bit), from the Miami Herald:
BYE-BYE LITTLE PLUTO.
As anticipated last week, textbooks will have to be rewritten, but in an entirely different way than expected: Now, suddenly, there are only eight real, full-fledged planets -- and Pluto has been booted out of the club.
The world's leading astronomers ended a week of scientific controversy by deciding Thursday to demote Pluto to a new -- and soon to be crowded -- category called ``dwarf planets.''
The celestial survivors now are called ''classical planets.'' Starting with the closest to the sun, they are: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune.
''Think of it as an amicable divorce or as giving up a daughter in marriage,'' Jack Horkheimer, director of the Space Transit Planetarium at the Miami Science Museum, said of Pluto.
``It's still the same partner or daughter, but the name is going to change.''
It's been quite the ride recently for Pluto and its supporters and detractors -- and for innocent bystanders.
Last week, a committee of the International Astronomical Union, which is meeting in Prague and has control over these things, recommended that Pluto retain its planetary status and that three other celestial bodies be added to the list -- for a total of 12 planets.
But the astronomers ultimately decided Thursday that last week's recommendation was too broad and accommodating.
''It was basically that anything round was a planet, and that immediately gives us 53 planets in the solar system, with the possibility of hundreds in the future,'' one said. ``Planets have the connotation of being special to us and 200 are not special.''
Now, a genuine planet has to be round, has to orbit the sun and ``has cleared the neighborhood around its orbit.''
The final part of the definition ruled out Pluto because it is one of 70,000 icy objects in the Kuiper Belt, making for a rather cluttered neighborhood way out there on the fringes of the solar system.
Naturally, the decision disappointed advocates of the plucky little, er, non-planet that was discovered by Clyde Tombaugh on Feb. 18, 1930 -- a favorite of many budding young astronomers.
Children bond with Pluto because it is -- was -- the smallest planet, the farthest from the sun and the only one with a Walt Disney character named after it, said one physicist.
Other admirers tried to make the best of it.
''The classification doesn't matter,'' said Louis Friedman, executive director of The Planetary Society, which lobbied for a robotic NASA mission to Pluto that was launched earlier this year.
``Pluto and all solar system objects are mysterious and exciting new worlds that need to be explored and better understood.''
Under the new celestial lineup, two objects that last week seemed headed for the planetary first team -- an asteroid called Ceres and Brown's 2003 UB313/Xena -- become the first of many bodies to join Pluto as dwarf planets.
One astronomer said he understood the cultural importance of Pluto and the long-held conviction that our solar system contains nine planets, but science always evolves and must travel where the facts lead.
''Scientifically, there is no question that this is the right way to go,'' he said. ``If the astronomers can stick to their guns, the culture will come around."