NEWS OF: 8/27/2006

IAU Downgraded to a Bunch of Guys with Telescopes

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What happened? First the IAU meets and unanimously agrees that Pluto is a planet. A day or so later, some rogue group of astronomers get together and demote Pluto to a dwarf ice ball. A week later? Neptune’s head is on the chopping block as the squabble over what defines a planet draws dangerously close to blows.

Those who are “anti-pluto” fear that every flippin lump of gas and minerals flying around us will get slapped with planetary status, making us the laughing stock of the galaxy just as soon as intelligent life finds us and doesn’t choose to immediately eat us. Pro-Pluto forces argue that not everything is about size and that if we do find intelligent life on Pluto? We’ll have some explaining to do…

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NEWS OF: 8/17/2006

Pluton Furnishings

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After coming to near blows over Pluto’s status, the jury (in this case the International Astronomical Union) has returned with a verdict that guarantees a more inclusive solar system and a less judgmental universe: 12 planets. Or, to be more exact, eight classic planets and four “plutons.”

“Planets” would be defined as objects that have sufficient gravity to form a “nearly round” shape and that orbit a star without themselves being a star or a moon. The threshold for planetary status that the IAU-appointed committee decided on was bodies with a mass greater than 500,000,000,000,000,000,000 kilograms and a diameter over 800 kilometers (497 miles).

The new definition increases the number of planets in our Solar System by inviting a few “plutons,” or wee planets, like Ceres, a (former) asteroid orbiting between Mars and Jupiter; Charon, which for now is considered Pluto’s moon, and so-called 2003 UB313 (got to work on a better name), an object beyond Pluto.

Twelve planets outside the orbit of Pluto and Neptune will also be considered!

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NEWS OF: 2/19/2006

beta CVn: Help Me Obi-Wan

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Ultra-liberal democrats who may have been considering a move to Canada have another option. Astronomers have identified a star in our Milky Way galaxy that is the most likely candidate for possessing a companion planet that harbours intelligent extra-terrestrial life.

It is a sun-like star called beta CVn in the constellation Canes Venatici and it appears to possess all the necessary preconditions that would allow an advanced civilisation to flourish on a nearby planet. Best of all, it’s just 26 light years away - 153 trillion miles. Now, at 24mpg highway and gas at $2.39/gallon…

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