Saturday, July 30, 2005

When a New Planet Swims Into His Ken

"Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
When a new planet swims into his ken..."
-- Keats

Scientists (Mike Brown & colleagues at Caltech) have found a tenth planet! Bigger than Pluto!

How utterly cool is that!!

Detail seem sketchy so far. (This is apparently because the announcement was premature -- their hands were forced since someone had hacked their website and would, they feared, preempt the announcement.) They know that it's bigger than Pluto -- although they don't seem to know how much bigger. It's about three times as far out. They're describing it as a "typical member of the Kuiper belt" -- indeed, the New York Times rather grumpily suggests that the discovery of the new planet (so far simply called 2003UB313 while awaiting confirmation of its official, hopefully somewhat more euphonious, name) will simply hasten Pluto's demotion (which has been suggested in recent years). I hope not; I like Pluto as a planet, and the idea of their being a tenth planet is simply way cool.

(I found the NYT story is rather confusingly written, incidentally -- too tied up with other discoveries and not well done. (It's late at night; maybe by tomorrow they'll have cleaned it up.) Try the other links above, or here for another what-is-a-planet-anyway?-focused story.)

All I can say is that I sure hope that my favorite piece of public sculpture will be updated & expanded appropriately! (Actually, references to "nine planets" are all over the place -- I mentioned one just the other day, just for example. So a lot of things are going to need to be updated...)

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