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The Man Who Destroyed A Planet
Old 12-07-2010, 01:24 PM   #1
Dakota Tebaldi
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Default The Man Who Destroyed A Planet

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We all grew up learning, in school, that there were nine planets in the solar system. We never thought much about it: That's just the way it was. But in 2005, Mike Brown, a professor of planetary astronomy at the California Institute of Technology, discovered a tenth. As he explains in his new book, How I Killed Pluto and Why it Had it Coming, out today by Spiegel & Grau, this is something he had been working toward his whole life. That day of discovery was one of the best days of his life, second only, perhaps, to the day his daughter, Lilah, was born.

But the excitement only lasted so long. Brown's discovery ignited a year-long debate over how, exactly, to define a planet. And when things got out of control, when too many bodies were being upgraded to planetary status, it was Brown who had to step in and demote his own discovery, the largest object found in the solar system in 150 years, and, along with it, beloved Pluto.
To most people, the demotion of Pluto from one of the "official" nine planets in the solar system to a mere dwarf planet was a decision made by some faceless, nameless, or otherwise unimportant and unattached body of scientists, done with no context.

But there is a face on that decision; there's one person who "led the charge" as it were. That person was Mike Brown, a man who could've gone down forever in astronomy history as the man who discovered our solar system's tenth planet - Planet X! - but instead, because he believed that what's right is right, pleaded to have his large-but-not rock, officially known today as Eris, classified as a "dwarf planet". Being 27% more massive than Pluto, that would mean the latter had to take a demotion as well.

Mike Brown's book, lovingly titled "How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming", was released today both in print and on Kindle. I gots it. I'm readin' it. It's a good book. Worth a read, I think. Kinda adds a human dimension to the whole thing, if you allow it.

Also, Pluto is not a planet.
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Old 12-07-2010, 01:40 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by Dakota Tebaldi View Post

Also, Pluto is not a planet.
but it used to be

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Old 12-07-2010, 02:58 PM   #3
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Old 12-07-2010, 02:58 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dakota Tebaldi View Post
To most people, the demotion of Pluto from one of the "official" nine planets in the solar system to a mere dwarf planet was a decision made by some faceless, nameless, or otherwise unimportant and unattached body of scientists, done with no context.

But there is a face on that decision; there's one person who "led the charge" as it were. That person was Mike Brown, a man who could've gone down forever in astronomy history as the man who discovered our solar system's tenth planet - Planet X! - but instead, because he believed that what's right is right, pleaded to have his large-but-not rock, officially known today as Eris, classified as a "dwarf planet". Being 27% more massive than Pluto, that would mean the latter had to take a demotion as well.

Mike Brown's book, lovingly titled "How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming", was released today both in print and on Kindle. I gots it. I'm readin' it. It's a good book. Worth a read, I think. Kinda adds a human dimension to the whole thing, if you allow it.

Also, Pluto is not a planet.
This is a freebie I hope?
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Old 12-07-2010, 03:23 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by Vivianne Draper View Post
but it used to be

Its not universally accepted that it isn't anymore...

In 2006 the IAU issued a new set of criteria for a body to be declared a planet...

1. The object must be in orbit around the Sun.
2. The object must be massive enough to be a sphere by its own gravitational force. More specifically, its own gravity should pull it into a shape of hydrostatic equilibrium.
3. It must have cleared the neighbourhood around its orbit.

There has been a fair amount of resistance to this reclassification, even within the astronimical community, less than five percent of astronomers were involved in the vote for this reclassification, and, according to Alan Stern (currently in charge of NASA's "New Horizons" mission to Pluto) the definition is technically flawed, as Eath, Mars Jupiter and Neptune all share their orbits with asteroids, and therefore technically don't conform to the third criterion of this new definition.

Therefore if we accept this new set of criterion, which was used to "downgrade" Pluto, Mars, the Earth, Jupiter and Neptune should also be downbgraded in status,
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Old 12-07-2010, 03:36 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dakota Tebaldi View Post
because he believed that what's right is right, pleaded to have his large-but-not rock, officially known today as Eris, classified as a "dwarf planet". Being 27% more massive than Pluto, that would mean the latter had to take a demotion as well.
So, this means that Pluto has been reclassified as a "dwarf planet", right?

Shouldn't we rename it Dopey, then?

ETA: Looks like some people have already followed my thought process:

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Old 12-07-2010, 03:51 PM   #7
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This is a freebie I hope?
No, it's a real book.
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Old 12-07-2010, 03:54 PM   #8
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No, it's a real book.
Plenty of real books are free over at kindle.amazon.com

For instance, do a search on, oh I don't know Jules Verne.

My point was, I don't think I'll pay to read someone's highly ambiguous and contested opinion on this topic. Plenty of other free material on the subject matter out there.
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Old 12-07-2010, 03:58 PM   #9
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The 2008 "Great Planet Debate" at The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, post debate press release is telling...

http://www.psi.edu/press/archive/20080919planetdebate/

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"It was a mistake for the IAU to dictate a definition when there is no consensus among planetary scientists. It is also counter-productive to focus only on the planets in our solar system, ignoring some 300 exoplanets," said David Morrison of NASA Ames Research Center. "The IAU definition of planet should be withdrawn or ignored."

"Historically, 'planets' are just objects that orbit the Sun. Even asteroids are called 'minor planets' By the IAU. The controversy caused by the IAU officially declaring the term to be restricted to eight objects in our solar system was unnecessary, but a natural consequence of one group of people trying to impose their views on everyone else," said Mark Sykes, Director of the Planetary Science Institute, in Tucson, Arizona. "Ultimately, over the years, the process of science is not guided by imprimatur and ensures that the most generally useful perspective will prevail."

The debate continues.
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Old 12-07-2010, 04:04 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by Lucifer Baphomet View Post
There has been a fair amount of resistance to this reclassification, even within the astronimical community, less than five percent of astronomers were involved in the vote for this reclassification, and, according to Alan Stern (currently in charge of NASA's "New Horizons" mission to Pluto) the definition is technically flawed, as Eath, Mars Jupiter and Neptune all share their orbits with asteroids, and therefore technically don't conform to the third criterion of this new definition.
It doesn't matter, though. Less than 1 percent of a city's population is on the city council and hundreds or even a thousand may disagree with that body's decisions; but if city council says no parking on the street after 2am, that's just the way it is. The IAU is the body in charge of deciding, among other things, what is a planet and what isn't.

Now, I agree the definition could stand to be clarified. But any definition of "planet" that would allow Pluto to be fairly considered a planet once again (aside from an addendum like "despite not meeting the above criteria, Pluto shall be called a planet just because") would add something like 50 planets to our solar system if we are to be scientifically honest, not just Pluto and a couple of other well-known objects.
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Old 12-07-2010, 04:09 PM   #11
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It doesn't matter, though. Less than 1 percent of a city's population is on the city council and hundreds or even a thousand may disagree with that body's decisions; but if city council says no parking on the street after 2am, that's just the way it is. The IAU is the body in charge of deciding, among other things, what is a planet and what isn't.

Now, I agree the definition could stand to be clarified. But any definition of "planet" that would allow Pluto to be fairly considered a planet once again (aside from an addendum like "despite not meeting the above criteria, Pluto shall be called a planet just because") would add something like 50 planets to our solar system if we are to be scientifically honest, not just Pluto and a couple of other well-known objects.
Dakota...

There are 9000 members in the IAU.

Less than 5% of them made it to the vote at the prague conference in 2006, when the definition was voted in.

If we use your council analogy, that's more like saying 5 members of the local council showed up and changed city laws while the other 95 were unavailable.


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2006_definition_of_planet

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The final vote has come under much criticism because of the relatively small percentage of the 9000-strong membership who participated. Besides the fact that most members do not attend the General Assemblies, this lack was also due to the timing of the vote: the final vote was taken on the last day of the 10-day event, after many participants had left or were preparing to leave. Of over 2,700 astronomers attending the conference, only 424 votes were cast, which is less than 5% of the entire community of astronomers.[36] There is also the issue of the many astronomers who were unable or who chose not to make the trip to Prague and, thus, cast no vote. Astronomer Marla Geha has clarified that not all members of the Union were needed to vote on the classification issue: only those whose work is directly related to planetary studies
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Old 12-07-2010, 04:16 PM   #12
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Dakota...

There are 9000 members in the IAU.

Less than 5% of them made it to the prague conference in 2006, when the definition was voted in.

If we use your council analogy, that's more like saying 5 members of the local council showed up and changed city laws while the other 95 were unavailable.

You said "less than five percent of astronomers were involved in the vote for this reclassification", not "less than five percent of the IAU"; so that mixup is your fault.

Even so - it was not a secret conference. If people can't be bothered to show up for major international conferences announced a full year ahead of time, when they know such topics are going to be voted upon, then what do you expect to happen - the council to just not vote on anything? Wasted weekend? Wasted money, reservations, and travel plans? Bollocks. You can't tell me that you think 8000 IAU members were all on the verge of such tremendous discoveries that they couldn't spare a weekend to participate in the IAU congress. They didn't go because in the moment they didn't care enough. Well?

The IAU met again in 2009. If so many IAU members disagreed, they could've attended and rescinded it then. But they didn't. Oughta tell you something.
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Old 12-07-2010, 04:18 PM   #13
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You said "less than five percent of astronomers were involved in the vote for this reclassification", not "less than five percent of the IAU"; so that mixup is your fault.

Even so - it was not a secret conference. If people can't be bothered to show up for major international conferences announced a full year ahead of time, when they know such topics are going to be voted upon, then what do you expect to happen - the council to just not vote on anything? Wasted weekend? Wasted money, reservations, and travel plans? Bollocks. You can't tell me that you think 8000 IAU members were all on the verge of such tremendous discoveries that they couldn't spare a weekend to participate in the IAU congress. They didn't go because in the moment they didn't care enough. Well?

I think the "Great Planet Debate" of 2008 bears my opinion on this out, Dakota.
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Old 12-07-2010, 04:19 PM   #14
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I don't know why it matters at all whether it's called a planet, a planetoid, a planetesimal, or a dwarf planet. It changes not one jot its orbit, its mass, its diameter, its composition, its history, or its fate. It's not as if the other planets would change in their behavior towards it by its "demotion." It matters, it seems to me, to sentimentalists and list reciters.
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Old 12-07-2010, 04:21 PM   #15
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I don't know why it matters at all whether it's called a planet, a planetoid, a planetesimal, or a dwarf planet. It changes not one jot its orbit, its mass, its diameter, its composition, its history, or its fate. It's not as if the other planets would change in their behavior towards it by its "demotion." It matters, it seems to me, to sentimentalists and list reciters.

It matters enough to Astronomers to fuel a debate thats been running for four years within the community, Govi.
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Old 12-07-2010, 04:26 PM   #16
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It matters enough to Astronomers to fuel a debate thats been running for four years within the community, Govi.
...to Astronomers that are sentimentalists and list reciters. None of the often-cited technical problems with the new definition would, if/when corrected, make Pluto a planet again.
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Old 12-07-2010, 04:31 PM   #17
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Old 12-07-2010, 04:33 PM   #18
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Old 12-07-2010, 04:35 PM   #19
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It matters enough to Astronomers to fuel a debate thats been running for four years within the community, Govi.
I know. And astronomers are quite human and are certainly sentimental and list maker/reciters. But the effect of our classification of the solar system's object named Pluto has no effect on it. Tempests in tea pots. And this in the midst of human caused global warming. Priorities. <sigh>
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Old 12-07-2010, 04:38 PM   #20
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It occurs to me, though, that the classification of Pluto does have a lot to do with a kind of astronomical taxonomy. And as such, classification has a lot to do with knowledge of its history, its present existence, and its fate.

Carry on.
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Old 12-07-2010, 06:20 PM   #21
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Speaking of Pluto's history; did you know that its discovery was a mistake?

The guy who "predicted" the existence of Pluto was a fellow named Percival Lowell. In the mid-1800s, astronomers studying Uranus's orbit noticed it was a little...off, as if something massive (like, say, the size of another planet) was tugging on it. By doing the math they discovered where the other planet should be; they looked there, and found Neptune. Woot!

Percival Lowell kinda sorta did the same thing to Neptune. He studied its orbit and found irregularities - which suggested another massive planet past Neptune, tugging on its orbit. He did some calculations, predicted a position for the ninth planet, took some pictures of that spot, and didn't see anything. Someone a couple decades later was looking at the photos Lowell had taken and did notice something moving. This thing became known as Pluto.

But, and this is the funny part, Pluto really, literally just happened to be close by the spot Lowell predicted. There was no reason to suspect a planet there because Lowell's findings of irregularities in Neptune's orbit were completely wrong - there's nothing whatsoever wrong with it. And even if the irregularities were real, Pluto (and its moon) could not have been responsible for them, because those little things are far too small to have any kind of effect on Neptune's orbit; Lowell's data suggested another gas-giant-sized planet was doing the tugging. Lowell was so wrong, he wasn't even right.

But, Pluto was found, so it was decided to call it a planet. As has been mentioned, bigger things have been found that aren't planets, which is why there's a controversy.
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Old 12-07-2010, 06:26 PM   #22
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I heard Uranus is huge and full of gas!
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Old 12-07-2010, 06:30 PM   #23
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I once saw a room in the Natural History museum devoted to moths.
Trays and trays of tiny wooden boxes with glass covers, each a miniature coffin for a carefully naptha-executed "specimen".
Each specimen carefully assessed to be exactly the kind of moth it was labelled to be in careful Latin dated labels. Hundreds of each of a kind.
I wondered to myself how they could have existed before the scientists came up with the process of catching and naming them?

Also:

Naming of Parts
by Henry Reed, 1942

Today we have naming of parts. Yesterday,
We had daily cleaning. And tomorrow morning,
We shall have what to do after firing. But today,
Today we have naming of parts. Japonica
Glistens like coral in all of the neighboring gardens,
And today we have naming of parts.

This is the lower sling swivel. And this
Is the upper sling swivel, whose use you will see
When you are given your slings. And this is the piling swivel,
Which in your case you have not got. The branches
Hold in the gardens their silent, eloquent gestures,
Which in our case we have not got.

This is the safety-catch, which is always released
With an easy flick of the thumb. And please do not let me
See anyone using his finger. You can do it quite easily
If you have any strength in your thumb. The blossoms
Are fragile and motionless, never letting anyone see
Any of them using their finger.

And this you can see is the bolt. The purpose of this
Is to open the breech, as you see. We can slide it
Rapidly backwards and forwards: we call this
Easing the spring. And rapidly backwards and forwards
The early bees are assaulting and fumbling the flowers:
They call it easing the Spring.

They call it easing the Spring: it is perfectly easy
If you have any strength in your thumb: like the bolt,
And the breech, and the cocking-piece, and the point of balance,
Which in our case we have not got; and the almond-blossom
Silent in all of the gardens and the bees going backwards and forwards,
For today we have naming of parts.
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Old 12-08-2010, 12:16 AM   #24
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Old 12-08-2010, 09:50 AM   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Govi View Post
I know. And astronomers are quite human and are certainly sentimental and list maker/reciters. But the effect of our classification of the solar system's object named Pluto has no effect on it. Tempests in tea pots. And this in the midst of human caused global warming. Priorities. <sigh>
That is where you are WRONG.

I get so worked up about this, I have to put Pluto threads on ignore!

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Old 12-08-2010, 10:05 AM   #26
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I know. And astronomers are quite human and are certainly sentimental and list maker/reciters. But the effect of our classification of the solar system's object named Pluto has no effect on it. Tempests in tea pots. And this in the midst of human caused global warming. Priorities. <sigh>
Much of Astronomy IS making lists, and classifying objects in those lists.

Look at any star catalogue.
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Old 12-08-2010, 10:09 AM   #27
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Much of Astronomy IS making lists, and classifying objects in those lists.

Look at any star catalogue.
Astronomy: Cosmic Accounting
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Old 12-08-2010, 10:14 AM   #28
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Further, Govi, bringing Climate Change into the debate isn't relevant.

It's like saying that Egyptologists debating whether Eatitofu II was killed by a crocodile, or his aide Ramadildo, should get over it, because we have Global Warming.
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Old 12-08-2010, 10:18 AM   #29
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FUCK YOU IF YOU DON'T THINK PLUTO IS A PLANET!
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Old 12-08-2010, 10:21 AM   #30
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Io Zeno View Post
FUCK YOU IF YOU DON'T THINK PLUTO IS A PLANET!
I DON'T THINK PLUTO IS A PLANET....

Now get naked.
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Old 12-08-2010, 10:37 AM   #31
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Pluto is the Death Star.



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Old 12-08-2010, 10:37 AM   #32
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POST YOUR BOOBS IF YOU BELIEVE PLUTO IS A PLANET AND A SCOT JUST TOLD YOU TO GET NAKED.
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Old 12-08-2010, 11:06 AM   #33
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As Pluto got plated,
This argument nonetheless,
Continued unabated.

From the outer reaches
Of the Solar System,
Came sighs of pleasure sublime.

No one was arrested,
Save Pluto's breath,
As Uranus attested.

The objects revolved
And rotated, pleased
That Pluto had at last been plated.
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Old 12-09-2010, 10:56 AM   #34
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Tweeted yesterday by Mike Brown:

Quote:
Dear @SpaceX: if you take me for a Dragon ride I promise to unkill Pluto #priorities
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Old 12-12-2010, 08:36 AM   #35
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It's a Plutoid.
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Old 12-12-2010, 02:25 PM   #36
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Just noticed, almost two years after the fact, the double post.

P2

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Old 12-12-2010, 02:25 PM   #37
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But seriously, folks -- Pluto is a KBO*.

So are Eris, and Sedna, and Xena, and a few thousand more.

P2

*Kuiper Belt Object, don'cha know.
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Old 12-13-2010, 01:22 PM   #38
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Eris is officially designated a Plutoid too along with Makemake and Haumea.
They can also be called Trans Neptunian objects.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedi.../EightTNOs.png
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Old 12-13-2010, 02:26 PM   #39
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All four of them can be called Plutoids, Trans-Neptunian Objects, Dwarf Planets, KBO's, and Scattered Disk Objects.

Of course not everything that can be called one of those things can necessarily be called all of them. These four objects are very special.
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Old 11-18-2013, 04:11 PM   #40
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