Thursday, August 24, 2006
Well, not exactly, but it sure seems like that after the International Astronomical Union - wow, just imagine the keggers those guys have - finally determined, after a long and acrimonious meeting in Prague, that Pluto, the icy sphere that has been considered the ninth planet in our solar system for more than 75 years, really doesn't deserve to be called a planet in the "classical" sense. In short, Pluto was bringing down the value of the neighborhood, so it is has been relegated to the ghetto of the land of "dwarf planets."
Pluto's major crime? It didn't help that its orbit isn't totally smooth, that its elliptical path around the sun overlaps with that of Planet Number Eight, Neptune. (In fact, from 1979 to 1999, Pluto was the eighth farthest "planet" from the sun because of that wacky orbit. Hope Plutonians enjoyed that brush with fame.) The official term being used by the IAU is actually "clearing the neighborhood" - really technical, guys.
Besides, stats prove that Pluto is a horrible place to raise children. You know - rampant crime, unattractive environments, average temperature of -387.4 degrees Fahrenheit. That's not exactly Vegas, guys.
So woe for fans of Pluto. Once again, the little guys get the shaft. Residents of Pluto probably will file a protest, but since they do have about 3.5 billion miles to travel to the meet with the IAU, this could take a while.
NOTE: One member of the IAU mentioned that few people would be "excited" by this decision, yet the organization's Web site was down when I just checked, apparently overwhelmed by that teeny level of excitement.
NOTE 2: Some may ask, if Pluto gets ejected from the planetary club because its orbit crosses that of Neptune's, then why isn't Neptune out? Apparently they wrote a footnote for Neptune dismissing that problem. So how does Neptune get out of that mess? Maybe they have photos of some of the more prominent IAU members playing with Uranus! [rimshot]