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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 "

Monday, April 15, 2013

Uwingu Responds to the IAU, Extends People's Choice Alpha Centauri Planet Naming Contest | PRLog

Uwingu Responds to the IAU, Extends People's Choice Alpha Centauri Planet Naming Contest | PRLog

The deadline for nominating and voting on names for the exoplanet orbiting the star Alpha Centauri B has been extended one week, to Monday, April 22 at midnight, Eastern Daylight Time.

Make your voice heard, and participate by nominating a name and/or voting for any of the names already proposed.

To make a statement supporting Pluto's planet status, please vote for "PlanetPluto." The name will not be used for the exoplanet since we already have a planet Pluto in our solar system. But voting for this name will send a strong message to the IAU and the world that members of the public join hundreds of professional astronomers in continuing to reject the controversial 2006 IAU planet definition and its resulting demotion of Pluto.

One more thing to note: According to the IAU planet definition, none of the nearly 900 confirmed exoplanets qualify as planets. Why? Because the IAU definition requires a planet to orbit the Sun rather than simply "a star." Even a requirement to orbit a star would preclude rogue planets, which are planetary bodies floating in interstellar space and not orbiting any star.

Vote and make nominations here:

Sunday, April 14, 2013

April 15 Deadline, and It's Not Taxes: Vote "PlanetPluto" in Uwingu's Exoplanet Naming Project

Uwingu is a company presenting a new way to fund astronomy research and space exploration. It makes use of crowd-funding online to motivate people discouraged by federal cuts to NASA's planetary program and cuts to space research by other Western governments to donate small amounts that will hopefully add up to enough money to fund large grants to scientists and research institutions.

The IAU wrongly condemns Uwingu as a "scam" and unfairly compares it to real scams such as the International Star Registry or projects that "sell" people land on the Moon.

Uwingu is nothing like this. Donors know they are not buying a certificate or an exoplanet; they are voluntarily funding scientific research that too many governments are unwilling to fund.

The IAU should be applauding this effort to get more funding for astronomy and get more people actively involved in the field, but instead, they are condemning an effort that actively promotes the science of astronomy and enables all of us to do so as well.

Is the IAU response really about Uwingu or exoplanets at all? Or is it a thinly-veiled attempt to "get back at" the leading astronomer in the world who has opposed and continues to oppose their flawed planet definition and demotion of Pluto? Decide for yourselves.

The IAU claims it is the only legitimate organization with the power to name and classify celestial bodies. Why? Because they say so? The truth is, the only authority they hold is by consensus, and if that consensus erodes, so does their authority.

As a way of sending a message to the IAU, I have been asking Pluto supporters to vote for "PlanetPluto," which has been nominated as one of the exoplanet names on Uwingu's site. You can vote as many times as you want, and a vote costs only 99 cents, which will go toward astronomy research.

As of this moment, PlanetPluto interestingly has 14 votes, which, if one counts Pluto-Charon as a binary system, equals the current number of planets in our solar system according to the geophysical planet definition, which includes terrestrials, jovians, and dwarf planets.

Science cannot be dictated by fiat. Ultimately, we are the "deciders"; we have the power to accept or reject names and definitions, to provide our own input, and to be part of astronomy research--not just by donating money but also by taking part in the many online astronomy research projects now open to all who are interested.

There is a deadline to nominate and vote on planet names, and that is Monday, April 15. While there is no guarantee any name will be used, Uwingu will create a "baby book of names" with the top 1,000 vote getters, which will be distributed to astronomers for possible use in naming any of the almost 900 exoplanets that have been discovered so far.

So take a break from doing taxes and vote here: . If you want to send a statement to the world affirming that Pluto is a planet and that the debate on planet definition is not over, cast one or more votes for "PlanetPluto," which you can find here: .

Friday, April 12, 2013

IAU Issues Response To Uwingu’s Exoplanet Naming Campaign

“I think it is diminishing that the IAU is holding onto their claim that they own the Universe...
This is like some 15th century European academic club claiming that since Columbus discovered America, they own all the naming rights. That’s BS.”~Dr. Alan Stern

IAU Issues Response To Uwingu’s Exoplanet Naming Campaign