Scientists Squabble Over Pluto: Pluto Doesn’t Care

Scientists squabbling over whether Pluto is a planet proves one point beyond a shadow of a doubt: scientists can be just as stupid as anyone else.

Pluto (much to my chagrin, a previous draft said, “Plato” not “Pluto”)  was demoted from “planet” to “dwarf planet”  by the International Astronomical Union (IAU) back in 2006 because it didn’t meet the three criteria that astronomers use to define a planet.

The decision to demote Pluto was made after eight days worth of intense debate capping off a frothy confrontation that has been brewing within the international organization for more years than any of its members might care to remember.

The decision was finally made by a majority vote of 424 IAU members who were still around when the vote was taken, which means that a total of 213 of those 424 grown-up scientists were enough to demote Pluto. The IAU has more than 11,000 members, most of whom apparently didn’t give a shit about the question one way or the other when the vote was taken, according to this 2006 NBC news report.

When the decision was made, the dissenters thought that it would be overturned lickety-split, according to dissenter Alan Stern, who actually led NASA’s New Horizon deep space mission that brought back those amazing pictures of Pluto. The question still remains up in the air 16 years later.

The IAU’s policy decision decreed that, in order for a celestial body to be considered a planet, it must be spherical, it must orbit the sun and it must have cleared its orbit of other objects.

Pluto shares its orbit around the sun with a number of other, smaller celestial objects called “plutinos”  that occupy the same orbital territory as the former planet.

Well, to be fair about it, the planet Earth doesn’t meet those criteria either, nor does Mars,  The earth obviously orbits the sun, but the earth is elliptical, not spherical and it has not cleared its orbit of other heavenly objects.

According to Wikipedia, we actually pass through forty meteor showers each year. The American Meteor Society lists 101 regularly scheduled meteor showers, which follow a precise schedule each year as we pass through successive waves of asteroid clouds, some of which become meteors when they enter the earth’s atmosphere.

Those repetitive rains of meteor showers occurring at precisely the same time each year proves quite conclusive that Earth shares its orbital path with these planetoids, as our orbit intersects with theirs, proves that the earth hasn’t cleared its path around the sun of its competitors.

It also proves that, if Pluto isn’t a planet, then Earth isn’t either.

This tempest in a teapot was triggered by a paper written by a group of respected astronomers and astrophysicists and published in Icarus, a respected scientific journal, in March of 2022.

That wasn’t a typographical error.  The publication date for this article is dated three months into a future that hasn’t happened yet.

The Icarus article also makes a case for promoting all moons and free-floating astronomical bodies of any significance to the status of planets, including several recently discovered celestial bodies, one of which is as large as Pluto itself, which would give us around 150 planets instead of eight. To make matters worse, we might lose one, because Pluto’s orbit periodically intersects with Neptune’s, leaving Poseidon’s namesake at risk of demotion.

All this hoopla descends from the ironic observations by the opponents to the IAU’s problematic decision that the traditional definition of what constitutes a planet was derived from astrology, whose practitioners were the first to identify the sun’s major consorts as the nine planets that affect human affairs, along with the Earth’s Moon and the twelve houses of the Zodiac.

It is apparently obnoxious and insulting to many scientists that we are still relying upon a grading system established by ancient Babylonian necromancers around 2,400 years ago, who don’t seem to remember that, just as chemistry and medicine were founded upon alchemy, astronomy we indubitably based upon the observations of the heavens made by ancient astrologers.

It becomes obvious to the objective observer of this scientific donnybrook that bona fide scientists aren’t much better at researching their theories than the knuckledraggers who knock themselves out doing their own research of Google and YouTube.

According to one scientist, most astr0nomers, astrophysicists, and planetologists are basically just ignoring the IAU which begs the question of, “Who cares anyway?”

Both sides in this debate need to realize that there is no reason for anyone to care whether Pluto is a planet or not.

Pluto doesn’t.