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Astronomers Walk the Dog
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That's right, they've taken Pluto outside. Now there are only eight planets left orbiting. And Pluto isn't one of them. That's the way it goes -- planet today, dwarf planet tomorrow.

I liked the first proposal with a former Asteroid planet (Ceres), a newly discovered planet (Xena) and a double planet (Pluto/Charon).

I say this is hitting below the Kuiper Belt and a lot of space rocks are going to be crying the blues when they hear the news:

Leading astronomers declared Thursday that Pluto is no longer a planet under historic new guidelines that downsize the solar system from nine planets to eight.

For now, membership will be restricted to the eight "classical" planets in the solar system: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune.

Much-maligned Pluto doesn't make the grade under the new rules for a planet: "a celestial body that is in orbit around the sun, has sufficient mass for its self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces so that it assumes a ... nearly round shape, and has cleared the neighborhood around its orbit."

Pluto is automatically disqualified because its oblong orbit overlaps with Neptune's.

What startled me was the following statement:

It was unclear how Pluto's demotion might affect the mission of NASA's New Horizons spacecraft, which earlier this year began a 9 1/2-year journey to the oddball object to unearth more of its secrets.

Let's see, they'll turn the spacecraft around and bring it back. Or alter its course for a real planet instead.

No, wait. Maybe the spacecraft's programmed to head for planet Pluto and now that Pluto's changed, poor New Horizons won't be able to find it.

In fact, since Pluto's been demoted what's to stop it from packing up its moon and heading off to some system that appreciates small, icy bodies.

The way some of these stories are written you'd think changing the name was going to change the object itself. Pluto is what it is, kind of like Popeye. Planet's just another word (for nothing left to lose?) As the philosopher (or crank, depending on your point of view) Alfred Korzybski said, "The map is not the territory."

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