Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Fall into my orbit, chilluns: NEW PLANETS!

(I am reposting these from Blanton's and Ashton's. This was the second of the two pieces I wrote. This one was posted today, August 16.)

You all thought I was just posting a throwaway piece yesterday when I wrote about Pluto and the International Astronomical Union. Ha! This should teach you not to take me lightly. I was on top of the story of the day. A committee of the IAU has proposed that not only will Pluto remain a planet, but three large pieces of space detritus (look it up) may become new planets. After all those years of painstakingly memorizing the nine planets in our solar system in order (Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto), you'll have to memorize three more. And the names are real dillies, let me tell you.

2003 UB313, the farthest-known object in the solar system and nicknamed "Xena, Warrior Planet"; Pluto's largest moon, Charon, named for the ferryman who takes the dead to Hades in Greek mythology; and the asteroid Ceres, which was a planet in the 1800s before it got demoted, could all become planets if the proposal is accepted. Of these, 2003 UB313 is my favorite name for a planet. It's like when they started naming cars "ES 300" and stuff like that instead of "Phaeton". Completely lacking in romance or personality, bled of all warmth, planets can become big hunks of matter circling some other big hunk of matter. If you want to ensure that few people become astronomers, name the planets with letters and numbers.

I mentioned the planetary additions to my co-worker just now and her response was perfect. "Yeah, I heard they were thinking of adding three new planets. You can do that? You can just add three new planets just like that?"


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