Dependable Erection

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

They should have called them "Goofies"

It rolls off the tongue better.
Pluto is finally getting its day in the sun, after being stripped of planetary status by astronomers two years ago.

From now on all similar distant bodies in the solar system will be called "plutoids." That's the decision by the International Astronomical Union, which met last week in Oslo, Norway, and announced the decision Wednesday.

The same group raised a cosmic fuss when it demoted the once-ninth planet to "dwarf" status in 2006. The new policy allows Pluto to be the standard for a whole new category of dwarf planets.

Pluto is one of only two plutoids, the other being Eris. Both are objects that circle the sun and are too small to be considered planets, but big enough to have a level of gravity that keeps them in a near spherical shape. Plutoids also must be farther from the sun than Neptune.

When Pluto was demoted, the astronomical union always planned on naming the new category of objects after the former planet, but had to find the right name, said IAU president Catherine Cesarsky, a French astrophysicist. Their first choice, pluton, was already used by geologists.



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