Posted by hyperpat on August 24, 2006
I see that our much hailed (and denigrated) ninth planet is no more. At the stroke of pen (or at least a bunch of votes), Pluto is no longer a planet. It meets all the new criteria for what makes a planet except one: it hasn’t cleared it’s orbital path of all the other orbiting junk (it’s orbit sometimes takes it inside of, and crosses over, Neptune’s orbit). Given the amount of controversy and debate over this issue, though (see Pluto Demoted, Loses Planetary Status), I don’t think it will forever remain dead stuck in its new status.
But the whole debate does point out that our universe is composed of many more types of objects than were even dreamed of just a short while ago. Now we have quasars, ‘dark’ matter, neutron stars, black holes, ‘proto’ stars (which Jupiter just misses being a member of), dwarf planets, and sundry other types of bodies. What else will we find out there? And will we ever be able to go and visit these things in person? I certainly hope so – but that will only happen if we put some real effort into not just getting into space, but living out there, making new habitats, becoming self-sufficient via the resources available out there, and breaking out of our little cocoon forever.