The Island of Doubt

Astronomical madness

I envy Nature reporter Jenny Hogan, who’s been blogging from the International Astronomical Union’s big meeting in Prague for the past couple of weeks. I’ve always considered science journalism the most fascinating sector of the industry (that’s why I’m one), but Hogan appears to be having an unusually fun time as the conference delegates lose their calm, rational demeanor in favor of an obsessive, impulsive approach to redefining the planets.

Her latest post, made just a few hours ago, has a breathless quality to it:

IAU: invasion!

What a madhouse. I was skipping down the stairs of the conference centre on my way to a 10.30am interview (not about planets) when I encountered a charge of scientists led by the esteemed Brian Marsden. “You’re the press,” one of his cohort noticed. “Show us to the press room.”

I retraced my steps. Marsden had, for many years, been responsible for cataloguing asteroids and other lumps of rock in his role as the head of the Minor Planet Center. He retired recently *, but made the invasion of the press room with youthful vigour. The battalion had an announcement to make.

Read the rest of the madness here.

[UPDATE: There are only Eight (8) Planets! Pluto Demoted to “Dwarf” Status]


  1. #1 Sam Zaydel
    August 24, 2006

    I am personally getting tired of all this beuracracy. It is a planet, no it is not, yes it is… These same scientists debating whether or not it is indeed a planet, should have spent that time on something else, like actual observing, and research. What does it matter whether or not we call it a dwarf planet? If there are are more objects out there the same or larger than pluto, that orbit the sun, we can begin calling them dwarf planets, but the amount of debate around one descolate planet is just rediculous.

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