Yes, But Will The Cease Fire Hold?

After a decade’s long struggle, it looked like the civil war between the Pluton separatist faction and the rest of the IUA may have reached a surprising compromise in Prague yesterday. Though controversial, the so-called Two Planet Solution offers hope that the warring factions can all peacefully co-exist in the solar system by, surprisingly, promoting the tiny planetoid of Ceres to full planet-hood, and allowing Pluto to maintain it’s status, but only by tacitly recognizing that it will not be allowed to retain the title of planet except by continuing its gravitational alliance with Charon.

Although this immediately opens the door to recently recognized 2003 UB313, which will also immediately petition to join the ranks of planets, the situation is much less clear for Sedna and Quaoar. Some sources inside the IAU indicated their displeasure at the possibility that the compromise will allow many more bodies in the organization. Caltech’s Mike Brown, who first spotted UB313 late in 2002:

applauded the committee’s efforts but said the overall proposal is “a complete mess.” By his count, the definition means there are already 53 known planets in our solar system with countless more to be discovered.

Brown and other another expert said the proposal, to be put forth Wednesday at the IAU General Assembly meeting in Prague, is not logical. For example, Brown said, it does not make sense to consider Ceres and Charon planets and not call our Moon (which is bigger than both) a planet.

There was no immediate comment from the moon. Other astronomer-insergents voiced their displeasure at the very definition of planets proposed:

“It looks to me like a definition that was written by a committee of lawyers, not a committee of scientists,” Boss said. “I think these criteria are as arbitrary as any other you might come up with.”

Still, with it’s history of once having been called a planet, the promotion of Ceres, whom many consider to be a “mere asteroid”, has caused little dissension in the ranks of international astronomers. It is, rather, the recognition of the Plutons, with Pluto as their founder and assumed leader, that stunned both sides. It is not clear that this will be enough to assuage the militants, when coupled with the rise in fortunes of it’s former moon, and now planetary partner, Charon.

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