Pluto: Planet Smanet!

Candice eetimesHere we go again; People are arguing whether Pluto is a planet or a dwarf planet again.

Me?  This has never interested me as much as why we call the four gas giants in our solar system “planets” along with three much smaller rock balls.  I get it in terms of history.  The term “planet” is old.  It meant “wanderer”.  We had Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn.  These were the “planets”… the wandering stars.  But with modern astronomy, should we still be classifying them all as “planets”, while excluding objects of similar composition and size to call them “moons”?

Consider that we call Mercury a planet yet Ganymede and Titan are both larger… but because they orbit a “planet”… they get downgraded to “moon”.  And what of Luna, our own “moon”?  It is also bigger than Pluto… so if folks are arguing that Pluto is a planet, shouldn’t we also be declaring that Luna is a planet?

Does this all sound like silliness to you?  Well… it does to me…But it is not merely a problem for talking about our solar system… but also for talking about other star systems.  We are calling objects around other star systems “exoplanets”; but most of them are gas giants as they are far easier to detect.  Then what do we call those terrestrial objects that orbits these “exoplanet” gas giants, “moons”?  And when they too are larger than terrestrial exoplanets in the same system?  Seriously?  We need a better handle on our nomenclature.

Oh sure, I could blow this whole thing off and let the International Astronomical Union work it all out.  But as I am currently writing science fiction about terraforming worlds orbiting a gas giant in another star system, I am loath to call these worlds, “moons”.  I’ve been avoiding the term using “world” instead.  But seriously, we need a better system.

Ever since I was a little kid, I thought of Luna as a terrestrial planet.  Terra and Luna, the double planet.  The gas giants aren’t “planets”… they are brown dwarf stars, each with their own ‘solar system’ of planets tucked in tight.  Thus, the Solar System is not a solitary star, but a multistar system with one main sequence and four brown dwarf stars.

Maybe that’s not the right way to think about it… but it works better than what we have now.



One Response to Pluto: Planet Smanet!

  1. Mat says:

    Pluto could one day become a planet if. A loose cable is sent from tidally locked charon to pluto. Making sure both sides are anchored securely to each. Then several cables are sent across using the first cable. The the largest diameter cable is spanned between. Then apply slight tension on the cable to bring the two together. Voila. Larger pluto, full blown planet statis.

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