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Astronomers say Pluto is not a planet

PRAGUE, Czech Republic - Leading astronomers declared Thursday that Pluto is no longer a planet under historic new guidelines that downsize the solar system from nine planets to eight. After a tumultuous week of clashing over the essence of the cosmos, the International Astronomical Union stripped Pluto of the planetary status it has held since its discovery in 1930.

By WILLIAM J. KOLE, Associated Press Writer Thu Aug 24, 12:20 PM ET


PRAGUE, Czech Republic - Leading astronomers declared Thursday that Pluto is no longer a planet under historic new guidelines that downsize the solar system from nine planets to eight.

After a tumultuous week of clashing over the essence of the cosmos, the International Astronomical Union stripped Pluto of the planetary status it has held since its discovery in 1930. The new definition of what is — and isn't — a planet fills a centuries-old black hole for scientists who have labored since Copernicus without one.

Although astronomers applauded after the vote, Jocelyn Bell Burnell — a specialist in neutron stars from Northern Ireland who oversaw the proceedings — urged those who might be "quite disappointed" to look on the bright side.

"It could be argued that we are creating an umbrella called 'planet' under which the dwarf planets exist," she said, drawing laughter by waving a stuffed Pluto of Walt Disney fame beneath a real umbrella.

"Many more Plutos wait to be discovered," added Richard Binzel, a professor of planetary science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The decision by the prestigious international group spells out the basic tests that celestial objects will have to meet before they can be considered for admission to the elite cosmic club.

For now, membership will be restricted to the eight "classical" planets in the solar system: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune.

Much-maligned Pluto doesn't make the grade under the new rules for a planet: "a celestial body that is in orbit around the sun, has sufficient mass for its self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces so that it assumes a ... nearly round shape, and has cleared the neighborhood around its orbit."

Pluto is automatically disqualified because its oblong orbit overlaps with Neptune's.

Instead, it will be reclassified in a new category of "dwarf planets," similar to what long have been termed "minor planets." The definition also lays out a third class of lesser objects that orbit the sun — "small solar system bodies," a term that will apply to numerous asteroids, comets and other natural satellites.

Experts said there could be dozens of dwarf planets catalogued across the solar system in the next few years.

NASA said Thursday that Pluto's demotion would not affect its US$700 million New Horizons spacecraft mission, which earlier this year began a 9 1/2-year journey to the oddball object to unearth more of its secrets.


"We will continue pursuing exploration of the most scientifically interesting objects in the solar system, regardless of how they are categorized," Paul Hertz, chief scientist for the science mission directorate, said in a statement.

The decision on Pluto at a conference of 2,500 astronomers from 75 countries was a dramatic shift from just a week ago, when the group's leaders floated a proposal that would have reaffirmed Pluto's planetary status and made planets of its largest moon and two other objects.

That plan proved highly unpopular, splitting astronomers into factions and triggering days of sometimes combative debate that led to Pluto's undoing. In the end, only about 300 astronomers cast ballots.

Now, two of the objects that at one point were cruising toward possible full-fledged planethood will join Pluto as dwarfs: the asteroid Ceres, which was a planet in the 1800s before it got demoted, and 2003 UB313, an icy object slightly larger than Pluto whose discoverer, Michael Brown of the California Institute of Technology, has nicknamed Xena.

Charon, the largest of Pluto's three moons, is no longer under consideration for any special designation.

Brown, who watched the proceedings from Cal Tech, took Thursday's vote in stride — even though his discovery won't be christened a planet.

"UB313 is the largest dwarf planet. That's kind of cool," he said.


AP Science Writer Alicia Chang in Los Angeles contributed to this story.


On the Net:

International Astronomical Union, http://www.iau.org





Members Pluto Base Division Sections


The Planet 




Oh No not SpongeBob, cartoon.  Rent a video and realize that there is a lot of comedy to his jokes. I think kids miss some of his slang remarks as just rudeness, and it is.






Occupation: Fry cook at the Krusty Krab

Sponge Bob Square Pants
Who lives in a pineapple under the sea. Sponge Bob Square Pants is absorbent and porous and yellow. Sponge Bob is a sweet, generous, friendly, trusting good guy.  His buck-toothed grin and tremendously expressive face and body, along with his pure and good nature make him completely loveable.  Sponge Bob's innocent and good intentions never let him do anything purposely wrong or harm anyone.  His boss Mr. Krabs & next door neighbor Squidward seem to be the brunt of his misadventures.  He is the fry cook at the Krusty Krab working alongside Squidward.  His free time is spent with his buddy Patrick, his friend Sandy and his pet snail Gary.  He especially enjoys catching jelly fish at jellyfish fields.  When his pineapple home is destroyed by nematodes, a single Sponge Bob tear magically recreates his home from a tiny seed in just a few

Name: Patrick Star
Occupation: Doing nothing

Patrick Star
Patrick is Sponge Bob's closet friend, a plump, pink well meaning but clueless starfish.  Patrick lives under a rock 2 doors down from Sponge Bob. Patrick is quite gullible and shares in many of Sponge Bob's adventures.  His loyalty and friendship to Sponge Bob is unequaled and a better friend than Patrick can't be found.  Sponge Bob's sidekick and buddy = Patrick.

Name: Sandy Cheeks
Occupation: Athlete?

Sandy Cheeks
Sandy is a great friend of Sponge Bob.  She is a ground squirrel from Texas who lives in a Tree Dome under the sea, which is complete with a Texas size tree, grass and picnic table.  Sandy is good at everything she does, from karate to weight lifting to throwing anchors.  She has quite a competitive nature and an occasional bout of homesickness doesn't keep her down.  Sandy is also prone to brief bad moods - especially when she does not get enough sleep.  Outside her dome she wears an air-filled suit and gets around quite well with the other residents of Bikini Bottom.


Name: Gary
Occupation: Super Genius/Pet

Gary is Sponge Bob's loyal pet snail who meows like a cat.  Gary may actually be much more intelligent than your ordinary garden variety snail (or was that just a dream?).  When he is properly fed and has enough snail plasma, Gary can be quite playful.  Gary is the cuddliest when you have a cookie in your pocket.  Gary is a natural musician with an amazing sense of rhythm - he keeps a swarm of wild dancing jelly fish bouncing to the beat

Name: Squidward Tentacles

Cashier at Krusty Krab Resturant

Squidward Tentacles
Squidward lives next door to Sponge Bob and plays a "mean" clarinet. He is the cashier at the Krusty Krab Restaurant.  Sponge Bob and Patrick always encourage Squidward to participate in their games, but this only annoys him.  While seemingly the eternal pessimist, he tries to have fun but does not ever get the hang of it.  When under extreme pressure, he's admitted to liking Sponge Bob!  Squidward is really a good guy with a good heart, despite what he apparently wants us to believe

Name: Eugene H. Krabs
Occupation: Owner of Krusty Krab Restaurant

Mr. Krabs
Mr. Krabs is Sponge Bob's boss and the owner of the Krusty Krab.  Mr. Krabs loves money, money, money and is glad to have the hard working, low pay, Krabby Patty flipping Sponge Bob as the "Employee of the Month" (every month)!  While he sometimes doesn't show it, he really loves the lad.  Mr. Krabs has a daughter Pearl (a whale) and regularly participates in Sponge Bob's misadventures, especially when it comes to treasure and work stoppages


Name: Jellyfish
Occupation: Making jelly

Jellyfish live in Jellyfish field.  They playfully allow themselves to be caught (jelly fishing) by Sponge Bob and Patrick while other times they playfully sting them.  They are in tune with nature and have great rhythm.  They are a constant presence in Bikini Bottom.  They also allow Sponge Bob to squirt out jelly fish jelly which is especially tasty.  While most others dare not trespass in Jellyfish Fields, Sponge Bob loves them all

Name: Plankton
Occupation: Owner of Chum Bucket Restaurant

Plankton is the owner of Chum Bucket Restaurant, across the road from the Krusty Krab.  Plankton is a good natured bad-guy, trying to steal the Krabby Patty recipe from Mr. Krabs.  He is also interested in world domination.  Through various devices and dastardly means, he tries to get the Krabby Patty recipe (he even tried being nice!), but to no avail, Sponge Bob triumphs and the secret recipe is safe.

Name: Bubble Bass
Occupation: A no-good person.

Bubble Bass He's only been in a few episodes, but he's mean, nasty, and an all-around hated character.

Name: Larry T. Lobster
Occupation: Lifeguard


A strong muscular lobster who spends all his time at the beach. He's popular with the ladies and he's always lifting weights.

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