ramblings from the noisedoctor

August 16, 2006

quick, how many planets are there?

Filed under: space — noisedoctor @ 8:05 am

Do you know how many planets there are in our solar system? Well, you may know that answer now (hint: it’s somewhere between 8 and 10), but there’s no way to be sure what that number is going to be in the near future.

The members of the International Astronomical Union are meeting in Prague to propose upping that number to 12. The current proposal maintains Pluto as a planet and adds three other objects to the “family.”

If the resolution is approved, the 12 planets in our solar system listed in order of their proximity to the sun would be Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Ceres, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto, Charon, and the provisionally named 2003 UB313. Its discoverer, Michael Brown of the California Institute of Technology, nicknamed it Xena after the warrior princess of TV fame, but it likely would be rechristened something else later, the panel said.

The galactic shift would force publishers to update encyclopedias and school textbooks, and elementary school teachers to rejigger the planet mobiles hanging from classroom ceilings. Far outside the realm of science, astrologers accustomed to making predictions based on the classic nine might have to tweak their formulas.

Of course, that could all change. I hope you’re not in business of selling models, stickers, or other stuff that has to do with the solar system. Oh, and apparently rejigger is our vocabulary word for the day.

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