In case you’ve missed the news, the astronomical community is currently reworking our solar system after some new information and a bit of a debate. While God may or may not have created our universe in 7 days, it has taken 2¼ centuries thus far to flesh out the solar system. Now we’re haggling about classes and categories. So why all the ambiguity? Part of it is the way in which we’re defining a planet.
The present theory is that a celestial body is given the planet status if it orbits a star and has gravity. One of Einstein’s theories explained that any old object in space has gravity. Gravity is proportionately greater as size decreases and density increases. That doesn’t make for any special categorization in my mind. A planet should be something unique and special within the universe. Afterall, it is a planet that sustains life in organisms.
I feel that a proper planet should have a soul. You can keep the bit about orbiting star – I have no conflict with that. One name for the planet’s soul that has stuck over the centuries is “Gaea.” To that, I think that in order for a planet to exhibit life in this way, it has to be living itself. That is, undergoing transformations geographically. Active as it is used in describing volcanoes. I haven’t followed up on the latest research into Pluto, but I seem to recall that Pluto is little more than a frozen methane bubble. With no core at all, I don’t see that Pluto could be counted as an active planet, Pluton or otherwise.
They’re calling Mercury a Dwarf Planet, which I can appreciate. Dwarven as it refers to the status of being a planet. It’s the same as our classification of stars and it works for planets too. A star near its end of being a star is called a White Dwarf. Mercury is said to have a partially molten core, which tells me it’s near its end in planetary life. The crust is solid with little allowance for any type of resurfacing or atmospheric influence from the core. So on one hand the dwarf class denotes an accurate point in the body’s planetary status, a planet’s life cycle is not considered in the definition.
I digress. Here’s the lineup today for our rediscovered solar system:
- Pluto + Charon
- 2003 UB313 (Xena)
NPR.org has a good piece up this morning with a humorous cartoon about Pluto’s fate.