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Sunday, March 31, 2024

Pluto TV to Hold Rally for Pluto's Planethood Tomorrow

PlutoTV, the free online television streaming site, will host a "Big Planet Energy" rally tomorrow, Monday, April 1, at 12 pm Pacific time (3 PM Eastern time) in support of Pluto's planethood. Although this is occurring on April 1, it is no joke! The day marks the 10th anniversary of PlutoTV, which is why it was chosen for this event. Dr. Alan Stern, planetary scientist, astronaut, and New Horizons principal investigator, will speak at this rally.

The event will be livestreamed on PlutoTV's Instagram page at . All are encouraged to watch and support this event!

PlutoTV also has a petition for Pluto's reinstatement, at .

For more information, visit .

Sunday, February 18, 2024

Celebrating the 94th Anniversary of Pluto's Discovery


It is time to celebrate! Today marks the 94th anniversary of Pluto’s discovery by Clyde Tombaugh on February 18, 1930, at the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona.

The observatory is celebrating with its annual I Heart Pluto event this weekend, featuring a Pluto pub crawl, a talk by writer Diana Gabaldon, and various science talks and demonstrations.

In honor of this anniversary, National Geographic has published an article titled, “Did Pluto Ever Stop Being a Planet: Experts Debate with citations of Philip Metzger and Mike Brown.

Phrasing the issue as a question rather than a statement is progress, as it amounts to not blatantly portraying the IAU view as objective truth. It is also an acknowledgement that the debate over planet definition and Pluto’s status continues.

There are several errors in this article. First, contrary to the writer’s claim, Brown is not responsible for the demotion of Pluto, no matter how much he wants to be. That was done by 4% of the IAU, a group of which he has never been a member.

Also, Brown is wrong in claiming that the term "planetoid" referred to small spherical objects. Planetoid has always been a synonym for asteroids/comets, objects not large enough to be rounded by their own gravity.

Brown is also wrong when he says that the pro-Pluto faction is dominated by members of the New Horizons mission. While most New Horizons scientists do view Pluto as a planet, largely due to their preference for the geophysical definition as well as their interpretation of the flyby data, they are by no means the only scientists who take this view. There are many planetary scientists and even astronomers, both amateur and professional, who are not affiliated with New Horizons but reject the IAU planet definition and view Pluto—and all dwarf planets—as a subclass of planets.

Regarding New Horizons scientists, Brown states, “When they launched, Pluto was a planet. By the time they got there, it wasn’t.”

This statement should be of concern to anyone who cares about science. Why? Because it essentially argues for science by decree of “authority.” Pluto was not hit by a large asteroid between 2006 and 2015. No portion of Pluto was lobbed off in an impact as was done to ancient Pallas and Vesta, taking the objects out of hydrostatic equilibrium. Nothing about Pluto changed from the launch of New Horizons to the 2015 flyby.

The change to which Brown is referring is the vote by four percent of the IAU in August 2006, meaning Brown is championing the idea of science by authority, something that is very unscientific.

As Jack Mitch Culberson stated on Twitter and in a presentation, what the media should have reported of the August 2006 vote is not that Pluto stopped being a planet but that the IAU stopped considering Pluto to be a planet.

Brown also makes an ad hominem attack when he says, “The pro-Pluto side tried to change the definition of a planet to be something it’s not because they were so desperate to keep Pluto a planet…”

Here he deliberately attributes an emotional motivation rather than a scientific one to the pro-Pluto side. The truth is not that pro-Pluto scientists were desperate to keep Pluto a planet but that they favored a geophysical planet definition, which is centered on an object’s intrinsic properties rather than its location.

So what if the latter results in the solar system having 200 planets? As stated many times, there is no scientific merit to the argument that the solar system cannot have “too many planets.” If there were, scientists would have to do something about Jupiter and Saturn having “too many moons,” the galaxy having “too many stars,” and the universe having “too many galaxies.”

This week, in conjunction with the anniversary of Pluto’s discovery, the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston, Texas, is holding a two-day workshop titled, “Planet Characterization in the Solar System and the Galaxy” on February 21-22.

The conference description notes, “The diversity of planets and planetary types has exploded since the first discoveries of exoplanets and shows no signs of abating as the total population of known planets in our system and others has grown from 9 planets to over 5,000. We will convene to describe, discuss, and debate the various planet classification schemes. We consider the needs of both astrophysics and planetary science, geophysics, ocean worlds studies, atmospheric studies, magnetospheric studies, and more, with the goal of informed scientific debate, education, and progress toward consensus classification schemes.”

Clearly, the debate over planet definition and classification is very much ongoing.

I will be attending this conference virtually and will give a brief presentation on the harm the 2006 IAU vote has done to public perception of science and scientists worldwide.

Clyde Tombaugh’s discovery of Pluto at age 24 was a triumph for science and showed the world that there is more to the scientific process than an advanced degree. It continues to inspire generations of people to look up and try to make their own discoveries. It is a victory for persistence and perseverance that merits being celebrated to this day and beyond.

Thursday, December 21, 2023

Celebrate Victory at the Winter Solstice


I apologize for being late with this good news though most who follow the New Horizons mission have already heard it—specifically, we won! New Horizons will continue to be a planetary mission while also doing heliophysics in the distant Kuiper Belt. Its team will also continue to search for a third Kuiper Belt Object (KBO) for a close flyby.

This victory belongs to the New Horizons team and to more than 7,000 people who signed the online petition to keep New Horizons a planetary mission with the crew it has had since before its 2006 launch.

According to petition organizer Hoyt Davidson, “The New Horizons team believes our petition and the cover letter to NASA’s leaders really was the straw that broke this loose.”

For more on where the mission goes from here, visit .

When so many of us were fighting to keep the planetary mission, I suspected things would end this way but was afraid to be too hopeful.

While this win happened at the end of September, today, when we commemorate the Winter Solstice and look back at the past year, is an opportune time to celebrate this accomplishment.

For the latest on New Horizons, check out this blog post by principal investigator Alan Stern:

At its core, the Winter Solstice is about hope, about the promise of new light and new life on the longest, darkest night of the year. In ancient times, people would come together to light bonfires they kept burning all night to “strengthen” the Sun and help it return.

How different is that from people all over the world coming together to fight for New Horizons? This, after all, is how the mission was created and launched after multiple cancellations and numerous obstacles. People came together for a project in which they believed and refused to give up on it.

We have always had the power to create change, to make the world a better place, to bring light to the darkness.

In these days of extreme weather and climate disasters, we need to find that power within and come together to save the habitability of our world and to explore beyond it. May we embrace and express that power in 2024 and beyond.

“Darkness does wane though winter’s chill

The season reigns so bitter still

Fire’s bright seed is born anew

Small spark of light we sing to you!

Birthday of light we hail and cheer

Though short the days still cold and drear

Solstice has come, and with this morn

Our brother Sun has been reborn!”

~Rich Mertes, fourth grade teacher,

Thursday, September 21, 2023

End of the Chase for New Horizons?

End of the Chase for New Horizons?: How the journey taken from start to implementation of the incredible New Horizons mission is facing derailment, something that has echoes from the past.

Thursday, August 24, 2023

The Pluto Resistance Continues

Here we are. It’s that day again—the day that will live in infamy, when 424 IAU members engaged in a throwback to the 16th century and attempted to impose a very flawed planet definition on all of humanity. At that time, there were six billion plus people on Earth. Today, there are over 8 billion.

Yet the bigger mistake and public disservice was not by the IAU but by most of the media and educational establishment. By giving the IAU definition the force of law instead of recognizing it as just one view among several in use, they too engaged in medieval behavior.

In an upcoming entry, I will share a comprehensive Power Point presentation by writer Jack Mitch Culberson. Some of the images come from this blog, but most are from other sources. He accurately described the IAU vote of 2006 the way the media should have done.

Culberson stated, “The IAU no longer considers Pluto a planet.” THAT is what should have been and should be reported—not “Pluto stopped being a planet.” Not only is the latter statement equal to science by decree of authority; it also completely glosses over the fact that an equal number of planetary scientists rejected that definition and to this day, prefer the geophysical definition, according to which all dwarf planets are a subclass of planets.

When Galileo looked through his telescope in 1610 and saw mountains on the Moon, the phases of Venus, and the moons of Jupiter, scientist Cesar Cremonini declared him wrong and refused to even look through his telescope. After all, Aristotle had already determined the Moon is a perfect sphere. If one already knows the “truth,” why look at additional evidence?

In 2015, 105 years later, the IAU did essentially the same thing Cremonini did, with the same inaction. Having made up their minds that a planet has to “clear its orbit,” they refused to look with new eyes at data about Pluto sent back by New Horizons, which clearly showed it to have complex planetary processes. The 2005 discovery of Eris was viewed as new data that merited a redefinition of the term planet, but the first ever images and data that revealed Pluto to be a planet, did not merit that same consideration to them.

And the media mostly enabled their denial.

The news isn’t all bad. While this should never have gone on so long, today, 17 years later, most planetary scientists ignore the IAU definition in favor of the geophysical one. Now, we need to get the media, educational establishment, and other venues to recognize that this issue remains unsettled and that the IAU position should not be treated as objective truth but as one side of an ongoing debate.

Just today, Celestron sent an email describing today as “Pluto Demoted Day,” with a link to an article that states only the IAU position without even acknowledging the geophysical definition.

For many of us, today is not “Pluto Demoted Day.” It’s “Pluto Resistance Day.” And we need to get the word out there that there is another view, that there is science behind classifying Pluto as a planet, and that no individual or group should be given the right to impose its view on all humanity.

We will never give up, and we will never stop fighting this wrong. Galileo was eventually vindicated, and so will adherents of the geophysical planet definition.

The resistance continues.