Planet X?
March 14, 2004 1:59 PM   Subscribe

An unusual solar object is the subject of a NASA news conference on Monday. The mothership? Or a 10th planet? Thanks to MemeFirst. (Related reading: Is Pluto really a planet?)
posted by Slagman (34 comments total)
 
I kind of find it startling that it could spell the end of life on the planet. I mean, one just doesn't expect to get clobbered by a small brown dward star in the back of the head.

I wonder what certain future disaster, known right down to the day, would do for our society. You know, like dead certain that on January 17th, 2153, the earth is going to be struck by Planet X. Would it bring war, or peace?
posted by five fresh fish at 2:28 PM on March 14, 2004


I believe the only solution would be to knock it off course by drilling into its surface and detonating a nuclear weapon. We would need to find the world's best underground drillers and hope that the social order of the world does not break down into hysteria as high-ranking officials play politics and the drillers face deep personal issues. Or we could try to paint it white.
posted by Slagman at 2:35 PM on March 14, 2004


V'ger seeks its Creator.
posted by inksyndicate at 2:37 PM on March 14, 2004


Why haven't they posted the pictures? By the way, thanks to the poster--I love this kind of stuff!
posted by ParisParamus at 2:38 PM on March 14, 2004


...Physicist and cosmologist Paul Davies, of Sydney's Macquarie University, said it was folly to describe Sedna as a planet. "It's fun, it's exciting, but let's keep it in proportion," Professor Davies said yesterday.
posted by dash_slot- at 2:48 PM on March 14, 2004


And how stupid is NASA to post the password publicly for the reporters-only telephone briefing?
posted by Slagman at 2:50 PM on March 14, 2004


Pluto is a dog....
posted by Eekacat at 2:51 PM on March 14, 2004


My money says it's a large asteroid drifting along the Kupier Belt,
and may offer proof of the Oort Cloud's existence.
posted by Smart Dalek at 3:05 PM on March 14, 2004


From the last link:

Pluto's elliptical orbit is also unusual. It is the only planetary orbit which crosses that of another planet (Neptune)

Why isn't this a contradiction?
posted by trharlan at 3:14 PM on March 14, 2004


discovery of the most distant object ever detected orbiting the sun

I guess we're safe for the next few hours, you can stop holding your breath
posted by elpapacito at 3:21 PM on March 14, 2004


I haven't seen quonsar for a while ...
posted by carter at 3:27 PM on March 14, 2004


I think this debate should force astronomers to clarify what is meant by "planet". The articles I've read seem to over-inflate the whole debate about Pluto. There are quite a few reasons why Pluto is classed as a planet beyond mere sentimentality. The fact that it has enough gravity to round its self off, and hold a tenuous atmosphere is a big convincing factor for me. This means that gravitational sorting should be an important factor in Pluto's development making it different from most other Kuiper belt objects.

So what if our model of the solar system includes 10, 15, or 20 planets?
posted by KirkJobSluder at 3:37 PM on March 14, 2004


God only created 9 planets. I believe it's in the bible.
posted by Slagman at 3:41 PM on March 14, 2004


Apparently The Aussies found out first: It's called Sedna, tentatively. (link found on memefirst's site)
posted by kokogiak at 3:41 PM on March 14, 2004


Doh - I see that my link above was in the original post. Nevermind. I can add that Michael Brown apparently also discovered Quaoar ;)
posted by kokogiak at 3:43 PM on March 14, 2004


dash_slot, Davies is a known doofus who doesn't like facts which contradict his biblical world view. Google his name for NYT links, for instance. I say bring on the planets, why discriminate just cuz a body is small!
posted by billsaysthis at 3:47 PM on March 14, 2004


The discovery of Sedna has nothing at all to do with Planet X.
posted by brownpau at 4:14 PM on March 14, 2004


brownpau

well, yes, those people are nuts. when I was a kid, though, I had a book called the "search for Planet X" that was all about astronomers looking for this planet way out in the solar system. It turned out to be ... Pluto.

So how is it this new planet has a name and it hasn't even been officially announced yet? Shouldn't it be called Georgia after our president? Or we could have a contest. Sedna, I'm sorry, does not have the same ring as Saturn or Uranus. It sounds more like a ring around your anus. Here, let me wipe that sedna off of you. It looks like dried santorum.
posted by Slagman at 4:38 PM on March 14, 2004


No offense to the Eskimos, I know it's their sea goddess and all.
posted by Slagman at 4:39 PM on March 14, 2004


Largest Kuiper belt object found: 2004 DW
posted by quirked at 5:19 PM on March 14, 2004


God only created 9 planets. I believe it's in the bible.

No, God only created 6 planets (including Earth)... everything else the evil scientists made up.


Anyway, if they keep finding more and more of these distant (and massive) Kuiper Belt objects, then I think it will fuel the "Pluto is not a planet" argument even more. The best argument I've seen for the Pluto is a planet argument is that it's "historical" and that it has a satellite -- both of which are rather shaky arguments (especially since asteroids with satellites exist).

I'm in favour of "contraction": lower the number of planets to 8.
posted by mkn at 6:34 PM on March 14, 2004


Could it be the long awaited Planet XXX? Smut for the whole solar system?

Free Quaoar!
posted by moonbird at 7:45 PM on March 14, 2004


mkn: Anyway, if they keep finding more and more of these distant (and massive) Kuiper Belt objects, then I think it will fuel the "Pluto is not a planet" argument even more. The best argument I've seen for the Pluto is a planet argument is that it's "historical" and that it has a satellite -- both of which are rather shaky arguments (especially since asteroids with satellites exist).

Actually, I see it as exactly the opposite. I have not seen a good reason for a reconsideration of Pluto's status, and there are some very good reasons beyond the historical why Pluto should be considered a planet. So far the arguments are appear to be: (borrowed from The Ontario Science Center)

It has a really eccentric and tilted orbit, unlike any of the other planets

So far, our survey of extra-solar planets seems to indicate that eccentric orbits are plentiful in our neighborhood. It could be more the case that Pluto is typical of planet formation and the inner solar system is atypical.

It is a lot like the comets we get from the edge of the Solar System

It is most similar to Quaoar, the newest Kuiper Belt object discovered.


Certainly, and the inner solar system planets are a lot like asteroids. The fact that the composition of a planet reflects what we believe to be characteristics of the environment in which it formed is a no-brainer. If such is the case, then it is misleading to use the term "planet" for both Jupiter and the Earth.

Pluto's larger size means that it is likely to be different from other objects in its neighborhood due to gravitational sorting.

It is smaller than four of the solar system's moons

The definition of a "planet" should be based on the probability that an object might have different properties at a certain size, not by comparison to other objects. By the same criteria, there is just as much room to argue that the gas giants should be given a different designation.

It has very little in common with Neptune and the other outer planets.

Not really relevant to the question. One of the reasons we should send a probe to Pluto is that Pluto may be an example of a third class of planets that might be abundant in our galactic neighborhood.

I've just not seen a good reason for reclassification. Here is the most convincing issue for me. Pluto's size makes it large enough for gravity to be a major player in its evolution and development. We don't know to what degree this is a factor, because we don't have much detail about what Pluto is like. The dominance of gravity in shaping Pluto makes it a critter with some common characteristics with all of the other planets in the solar system.

And if we find other distant and massive Kuiper belt objects with similar orbital characteristics, then we simply add onto the number of planets we have. There is no reason why the number of planets should be capped at 5, 8, 9 or 30.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:20 PM on March 14, 2004


We're all going to die of an asteroid and here you guys are arguing about Pluto. Wise up and start panicking.
posted by Hildago at 8:27 PM on March 14, 2004


So far, our survey of extra-solar planets seems to indicate that eccentric orbits are plentiful in our neighborhood. It could be more the case that Pluto is typical of planet formation and the inner solar system is atypical.

Yeah, eccentric orbits are the norm, and the inner solar system + the gas giants are atypical to that... but, if anything, that proves that Pluto is more like those other objects (comets, asteroids) than the standard planets. In that regard, Pluto is atypical to standard planet orbit patterns (but typical to comets.)
posted by mkn at 8:32 PM on March 14, 2004


Cool, Sedna was found by the Spitzer.
posted by homunculus at 10:51 PM on March 14, 2004


Would it have killed them to have named it "Persephone", to keep all the known planets at least in the same general language group and mythology? I appreciate more heavenly bodies named after women and/or goddesses (indeed, every feature on Venus, large and small, is named after women or goddesses, which is pretty neat) but why let political correctness screw up a perfectly good naming system? Nine Greek/Roman names and one Inuit? Um...okay.

(Pluto's moon "should have" been Persephone, who was his Queen, but it got named Charon [after the ferryman on the river Styx who took souls to Pluto/Hades in the underworld] because the discovering scientist's wife's name was Charlene.)
posted by Asparagirl at 12:01 AM on March 15, 2004


Pluto
With depravity I break laws of gravity
Blast past the atmosphere to the last frontier
I go boldly through space and time
The skies the limit but they’re limiting the sky
I break orbit by habit, ignite satellites and leave rings round the planet
A flying ace like that beagle
Nevertheless this alien remains illegal
‘cause their discovery don’t cover me
the immigrant’s been left in the cold to grow old and disintegrate
discriminate against the distant and disclaim this
cause small minds can’t see past Uranus
But I shun their rays, ‘cause stuns just a phase
And my odyssey runs in two thousand and one ways
And I can see clearly now like Hubble,
Shoved off the shuttle, here’s my rebuttal
It’s a planet

Who you represent? I represent the smallest planet
Attorney in this tourney versus those who’ve tried to ban it
If you don’t agree go see Interplanet Janet
Cause sun is star, like Pluto is planet
Lend me all your ears and let me state my case
About all the types of satellites you must embrace
Cause like my parents, great grandparents
This planet was an immigrant
To deport it makes no sense
It’s an upstanding member of the solar system
Apply the laws of earth and make it a victim
Of Proposition 187
When Pluto spawns a moon it will apply to the heavens
I will damn thee like Judas of Iscariot
If you demote this mote remote to affiliate
It’s like taking ET’s custody from Elliot
Support your Lilliput, cause simply put

Pluto is a planet

Do it for the children
posted by Hankins at 4:27 AM on March 15, 2004


mkn: Yeah, eccentric orbits are the norm, and the inner solar system + the gas giants are atypical to that... but, if anything, that proves that Pluto is more like those other objects (comets, asteroids) than the standard planets. In that regard, Pluto is atypical to standard planet orbit patterns (but typical to comets.)

But how do we know this? Eccentric orbits appear to be the norm for gas giants in our galactic neighborhood (although to be fair, gas giants in eccentric orbits are easier to detect than other solar system configurations.)

Asparagirl: Would it have killed them to have named it "Persephone", to keep all the known planets at least in the same general language group and mythology? I appreciate more heavenly bodies named after women and/or goddesses (indeed, every feature on Venus, large and small, is named after women or goddesses, which is pretty neat) but why let political correctness screw up a perfectly good naming system? Nine Greek/Roman names and one Inuit? Um...okay.

Part of the problem is that they are rapidly running out of Greek/Roman names. In addition, the convention appears to be to name outer solar system objects after creation dieties.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 5:50 AM on March 15, 2004


Since Pluto seems simultaneously to be a planet and to not be a planet, maybe it should have been named Janus, after the god with two faces.
posted by alumshubby at 7:11 AM on March 15, 2004


What does Horst have to say about this?
posted by Dagobert at 7:45 AM on March 15, 2004


The BBC on Sedna
posted by Slagman at 7:59 AM on March 15, 2004


It should have been named Rupert.
posted by brownpau at 9:28 AM on March 15, 2004


There are still quite a few left to go in the Greco-Roman pantheon, though. There's still no Vulcan, for example.
posted by Pseudoephedrine at 1:30 PM on March 15, 2004


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