Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Pluto Position Plagues Prague

(This was originally posted on August 15 at Blanton's and Ashton's. It is the first of two postings on the subject of the conference of the International Astronomical Union.)

Scientists are meeting in Prague to decide whether Pluto should continue to be designated as a planet or be downgraded to something like "that asteroid named after the Disney character". Okay, so maybe this doesn't matter to you, but to Plutologists, this is their entire life's work on the line. About half of the scientists say it should remain a planet while the other half say it should be considered an asteroid. I am sure there is a joke in there somewhere about "a third half of the scientists say", but I'll leave that for the physicists to work out.

Delegates from the Plutonian delegation could not be reached for comment.

The deliberation is part of the 12-day conference of the International Astronomical Union, or "IAU", as we acronymists like to call it. In addition to the fate of Pluto, the Union will decide whether to go on strike for bigger planets, longer breaks between comets, and an "asteroid-sharing plan" that would allow the members to participate in asteroids that are developed as a result of their efforts. When viewed through a telescope, by the way, the meeting looks like this:A team of scientists are now studying this picture to try and determine whether there is water in Prague. Their efforts are being hampered by the fact that none of them speak Czech. NASA is applying for funding to mount a mission to send probes to Prague to gather further information.

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