In Stunning Reversal, IAU Rules That Pluto is in Fact the Only Planet

Prague, Czech Republic – The International Astronomical Union (IAU) in Prague, amending their 2006 definition, voted Tuesday to again redefine “planet,” now making Pluto the only planet in the solar system, just four years after it was banished in favor of an 8-planet system.

Following the controversial 2006 vote that essentially barred Pluto from planetship, astronomers “went back to their roots,” and “took a step back to reexamine the big picture,” according to Dr. Francis Doughlin of the University of Cambridge.

“The outcry over the Pluto thing was so strong that we felt we owed it to the people to take another look at the facts, and come to a prudent and sensible scientific decision,” said Doughlin.

The verdict, after several years and over $14 million in research at several top institutions, including California Institute of Technology, NASA, and the University of Munich, was that Pluto was unlike all other celestial bodies and therefore could not fit into the current definition of planet, dwarf planet, or asteroid. Scientists thus determined that the definition of planet needed to be changed. It was determined that Pluto’s unique orbital pattern, 17 degrees off plane from those of the rest of the conventional solar system, was actually the correct plane and that the other eight former planets were offplane. Furthermore, Pluto’s “semi-roundness” and closeness in both size and distance to its moon, Charon, made it the only known adherent to the new definition.

The eight bodies formally known as planets will be divided between the categories of “gaseous pseudoplanets” and “large asteroids.” Earth is now classified as a “large asteroid,” along with the 107 other known members of that category.

The startling decision will mean major changes for many sectors in America, especially the textbook industry, which is only now catching up with the 2006 change. The decision sparked mixed reactions from various affected parties.

“[The demotion of Earth to non-planetary status] will be tough to get used to for many teachers,” said Mel Stephens of the National Education Association. “We have been using the terms “planet,” “earth,” “world,” almost interchangeably. It will take some adjustment, but I see no problems with it in the long term.”

Other parties were less considerate.

“This is {expletive} bull-{expletive},” Charlie Moore, executive producer of CNN’s Planet in Peril, said in a statement.

“It will be easy to feel nostalgic about Earth’s days as a planet,” notes Doughlin, “but for the sake of scientific advancement, we all need to embrace the fact that our solar system features one planet, Pluto, revolving around one sun.”

- M Gwin ’14

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