Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Nifty news

Here are some nifty news items, painfully shoehorned cleverly placed into an astronomical theme.

A new planet: Astronomers may have found a tenth planet. At the very least, they found a big old chunk of rock and ice — bigger than Pluto — beyond Pluto's orbit. If it doesn't count as a planet, it's because Pluto's not one either. And there's a little bonus: the object, 2003 UB313 (but nicknamed "Xena"), was found by a telescope at the Palomar Observatory. I thought that Palomar was falling behind: that it had been surpassed by newer, bigger, shinier telescopes; and that light pollution from creeping urban sprawl had hurt the seeing at Palomar, the way it did at Mount Wilson.

A new star: Paul Hackett ran a great race in the special election for Ohio's 2nd Congressional District. He lost, but by a small margin, in what was supposed to be a very safe Republican seat. You can blame a poor Republican candidate (Jean Schmidt) and her distracted campaign manager (Joe "Spanky" Braun). But the Democratic candidate in 2004 lost by 44 points — which was better than average for that district! Hackett lost by just 4 points. To get that kind of a swing, you need both a motivated electorate and an inspiring candidate.

A new sun son: It's good to see that at least one other country has a brilliant ruler whose genius approaches that of our own Dear Leader.

My big asteroid: Who can resist chunky bacon ice cream? (via Economist’s View)

We now return to our regularly scheduled pessimism.


Blogger Bob Waters said...

First, it's only a third the mass of Pluto, not larger, as initially reported.

Nor is it clear that it's a planet. There is no official definition of the word. The IAU will probably adopt one soon.

And it's the IAU which will decide the new body's name. "Xena" was a joking internal designition at Cal Tech. It was never intended as a serious proposal for a name.

4:04 PM  
Blogger scott said...

Bob, (1) 2003 UB313 is bigger than Pluto. It's 2003 EL61, another Kuiper Belt object (whose discovery was announced earlier the same day) that's smaller than Pluto.

(2) You're right, there needs to be a definition of "planet". But if Pluto is a planet and UB313 is bigger than Pluto, then it's hard to deny UB313 the title.

(3) Clearly, "Xena" isn't the real name. That's what nickname means.

(3b) You're half right when you say "the IAU will decide." In practice, the discoverer chooses a name, and the IAU approves it.

5:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We can't give up Pluto. It's the little planet that could! Plus, Disney would sue!!

11:05 AM  

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