HOUSTON, Texas (CBS Local) – Pluto fans — and scientists — are taking umbrage with those who call another possible “further” planet, “Planet Nine.” Pluto was formerly known as the ninth planet in our solar system according to the International Astronomical Union (IAU) and some say that is still a controversial decision.
In case you are not up to speed, according to Space.com, “Planet Nine” is a theoretical planet that has not yet been proven to exist.
“In 2014, astronomers Scott Sheppard and Chadwick Trujillo suggested that a giant unseen “perturber” may lurk in the far outer solar system,” according to the web site. The duo said the existence of that large world would explain the peculiar orbits of some outlying objects on the solar system.
But let’s not get distracted… back to the name, “Planet Nine.”
If you grew up in the last century, you learned there were nine planets in our solar system – and Pluto was the ninth. Not getting that answer correct on a test would certainly earn you at least a point off on your science exam.
A new post in the Planetary Exploration Newsletter on planetarynews.org – a site that could almost be described as “the geeks’ Drudge Report” in type face and detail – says that the term “Planet Nine” is insensitive.
Why? The scientists see use of the name as a slight to the astronomer who discovered Pluto.
“We the undersigned wish to remind our colleagues that the IAU planet definition adopted in 2006 has been controversial and is far from universally accepted,” began the post.
“Given this, and given the incredible accomplishment of the discovery of Pluto, the harbinger of the solar system’s third zone – the Kuiper Belt – by planetary astronomer Clyde W. Tombaugh in 1930, we the undersigned believe the use of the term ‘Planet 9’ for objects beyond Pluto is insensitive to Professor Tombaugh’s legacy,” continued the post.
The post is undersigned by at least thirty-five members who said “stop it” but in a much more scientific and – some would argue – politically correct way.
“We further believe the use of this term should be discontinued in favor of culturally and taxonomically neutral terms for such planets, such as Planet X, Planet Next, or Giant Planet Five,” the post concluded.
According to the web site, the Planetary Exploration Newsletter “provides an open conduit of news and announcements across the professional community of planetary science and related disciplines. It distributes messages from NASA officials, meeting announcements, job announcements, and your submissions of news regarding or impacting solar system exploration, upcoming mission events, policy issues, and editorials.” All editorial work is reportedly done by volunteers.
[H/T CBS DFW]