Sunday, April 21, 2013

NEAF: Neutral on Pluto and on Planet Definition Debate

As a follow up to a previous regarding the Northeast Astronomy Forum and my request that they present fair and balanced coverage of the Pluto debate by hosting a pro-Pluto-as-a-planet speaker alongside Mike Brown, I would like to share a friendly, respectful response from NEAF organizers regarding my request.

I am very happy to share that Lecture Series Coordinator Keith Murdock emphasized that NEAF supports open debate and does not take a stand on the Pluto controversy. In fact, organizers had reached out to Alan Stern to present the other side; unfortunately, logistics precluded Stern from doing so this year. NEAF organizers are already planning next year's event and hope to enlist Stern or another planetary scientist to present a geophysical perspective.

This is great news because forums like NEAF exist to promote open debate and discussion rather than to endorse any one perspective. I want to publicly thank and commend NEAF organizers for being so responsive, generous, and fair in addressing this issue.

As for this year's NEAF, now in progress, Dr. Ken Kremer, who is giving a talk on the Curiosity Mars rover, plans on making sure to add a plug for the planet status of Pluto and all dwarf planets.

Below is the text of the letter I received:

"Dear Laurel,
Thank you for your comments. We realize that Pluto's status is still a controversial topic, and would like to state that having Mike Brown as a speaker is not to be interpreted as an endorsement of his opinions on the subject. We are a forum, and have no objections to presenting valid arguments on the definition of a planet from the geophysical, rather than the dynamical point of view. We had in fact reached out to Alan Stern on the subject, but were unable to come to a speaking agreement with him.

We are already considering our speaking slate for next year and will strongly consider a planetary scientist with a geophysical perspective for next year's schedule.
Your opinion is important to us and we appreciate your recommendations on this issue.


Keith Murdock
RAC Board of Directors
& Lecture Series Coordinator "

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