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The Lower Atmosphere of Pluto Revealed

CmdrTaco posted more than 5 years ago | from the they-should-buy-a-space-heater-haha-get-it-so-funny-blam-blam dept.

Space 109

Matt_dk writes "Using ESO's Very Large Telescope, astronomers have gained valuable new insights about the atmosphere of the dwarf planet Pluto. The scientists found unexpectedly large amounts of methane in the atmosphere, and also discovered that the atmosphere is hotter than the surface by about 40 degrees, although it still only reaches a frigid minus 180 degrees Celsius. These properties of Pluto's atmosphere may be due to the presence of pure methane patches or of a methane-rich layer covering the dwarf planet's surface."

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i see the future (3, Funny)

thhamm (764787) | more than 5 years ago | (#27064065)

cue the "methane" & "uranus" jokes.

Re:i see the future (-1, Redundant)

tverbeek (457094) | more than 5 years ago | (#27064109)

So apparently Pluto farts.

Re:i see the future (0, Troll)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 5 years ago | (#27064279)

No, Uranus does!

Re:i see the future (-1, Troll)

cwAllenPoole (1228672) | more than 5 years ago | (#27064353)

Pull my dwarf planet

Re:i see the future (4, Funny)

Amazing Quantum Man (458715) | more than 5 years ago | (#27065507)

That's "Gravitationally Challenged" planet, you insensitive clod!

Re:i see the future (1)

cwAllenPoole (1228672) | more than 5 years ago | (#27066051)

I think you're just anti-dwarves.

Re:i see the future (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 5 years ago | (#27067831)

Your mom is "Gravitationally Challenged"!

Re:i see the future (3, Funny)

Machtyn (759119) | more than 5 years ago | (#27065101)

So, now Pluto gets to be the butt of all the jokes.

Re:i see the future (1)

LifesABeach (234436) | more than 5 years ago | (#27066483)

For all the trash talk that Pluto has received as, "Not a Real Planet"; it now finds itself to be associated other, blue collar type objects in space. Just how much more can this one little planet take!

>youTubeFoolCrying<Leave Pluto Alone!</youTubeFoolCrying>

Re:i see the future (0, Offtopic)

Kwiik (655591) | more than 5 years ago | (#27066739)

How to get +5 funny instead of +4 funny:

Post the joke instead of the joke's base elements

Re:i see the future (1)

conureman (748753) | more than 5 years ago | (#27067099)

I think GP meant to be insightful.

Re:i see the future (1)

vandelais (164490) | more than 5 years ago | (#27067547)

Pure methane?--What are they feeding him? Walt Disney?

Re:i see the future (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27067553)

So then we should rename Pluto to say... Poot-o!

Quite a long and interesting article... (2, Funny)

amentajo (1199437) | more than 5 years ago | (#27064069)

... concerning a celestial body whose public status has recently changed from "Boring Planet" to "Boring Dwarf Planet" after its 15 minutes of fame in the news. I guess now it's a "Less Boring Dwarf Planet".

Mostly (3, Funny)

tverbeek (457094) | more than 5 years ago | (#27064149)

I've actually just transmitted an update to the article about Pluto in the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. It now reads "Mostly Boring."

Re:Quite a long and interesting article... (1)

conureman (748753) | more than 5 years ago | (#27064493)

Shades of Chesley Bonestell, nice image. What is that crescent shaped object visible in the artist's conception? A Death Star? I can't think of anything else that might be out there. Hmmph.

Re:Quite a long and interesting article... (5, Informative)

Canazza (1428553) | more than 5 years ago | (#27064561)

um, Charon? [wikipedia.org]

Re:Quite a long and interesting article... (2, Interesting)

conureman (748753) | more than 5 years ago | (#27066175)

By no strange coincidence 1978 was the year I put away the 4" Reflector and embarked on a futile quest to control my social ineptitude near desirable women. Guess I missed a few things.

Re:Quite a long and interesting article... (1)

4D6963 (933028) | more than 5 years ago | (#27066413)

Well.. hopefully you got to uncover more moons than you could have with a telescope!

Re:Quite a long and interesting article... (1)

conureman (748753) | more than 5 years ago | (#27066693)

I never saw any of the other planet's moons, my clock drive was broken, that might've helped. Oh, right.. I'd say I did a lot better than I deserved, all things considered.

Re:Quite a long and interesting article... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27067913)

*sigh*

conureman... he's talking about BUTTS. As in, by focusing on being able to talk to women without vomiting, you were (hopefully) able to convince some of them to let you see them naked.

Re:Quite a long and interesting article... (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 5 years ago | (#27068083)

I'd say I did a lot better than I deserved, all things considered.

There is your problem, according to what psychology knows nowadays.
To get what you want, you first must believe it yourself. And in a way that makes even others believe it.

If we're still talking about girls: There is no "deserving" in that area. That's only what you learned to be worth.
Get an own system of values. Re-evaluate what you think about stuff. And then stop putting yourself below women.
You are not lower or higher in value than they are. Even the most sexy girl is just a girl. And she can have huge deficits where you shine.

Don't get girls even though you are what you are. Get them because you are what you are.

I am a programmer. I love developing complex systems and talking about advanced concepts of physics and philosophy.
I would never act as if this "geekyness" were a disadvantage. No. If I talk to the most beautiful girl, she has live up to being able to think on that level.
Not in a mean way! I'm only clear about what the worth of it in my reality is.

You can be born beautiful. But you have to work hard to become a great mind. (I'm still working on it. And I always will. ^^).

Re:Quite a long and interesting article... (1)

conureman (748753) | more than 5 years ago | (#27071773)

Did I mention ineptitude? I don't have esteem issues, other than a realistic idea of the various impressions I give to the majority of people to whom I speak. Heck, I even have several friends. I was not completely unfortunate, genetically, and used to attract some favorable attention, until I'd engage in conversation. Did I mention ineptitude? It was the stuff of comedy. In the main, I learned to edit my choices of conversational topics, which works for short-term relationships ;). Anyway, if you've read my posts, you can see I still haven't transcended the inane non-sequitur, &c. (I'm usually ROTFL on my REALLY insane-sounding stuff, although the kernel of reality [and/or humor] is often pretty obscure.)

Re:Charon (1)

conureman (748753) | more than 5 years ago | (#27064571)

Live and learn.

Re:Quite a long and interesting article... (1)

wooferhound (546132) | more than 5 years ago | (#27065451)

plus , Don't forget Nix and Hydra . . .
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nix_(moon) [wikipedia.org]
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydra_(moon) [wikipedia.org]

Re:Quite a long and interesting article... (1)

nicodoggie (1228876) | more than 5 years ago | (#27065987)

Lots of moons for a little guy! So size doesn't matter.

/me smiles at this joyous realization

Not that I'm small or anything... no.

Re:Quite a long and interesting article... (1)

conureman (748753) | more than 5 years ago | (#27066593)

Imagine growing up on the Charon-facing side of Pluto. One might deduce from one's own empirical observation, within a lifespan of one or so "Pluto years", the nature of our orbital motions, &c. Kind of a beautiful picture in my mind.
Why yes, I have been smoking something... But seriously, Pluto and Charon could communicate by semaphore.

Wow, Pluto and "hot" in the same sentence. (2, Insightful)

Ihlosi (895663) | more than 5 years ago | (#27064095)

What's next, cold spots on Venus (i.e. cold enough that lead is almost solid again)?

Re:Wow, Pluto and "hot" in the same sentence. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27064961)

Sure. Cold is a relative term when you get down to it, isn't it? Even among humans, 20C weather can be cold to someone from Alabama but to me it's quite hot.

Cold is absolute - Hot is relative (2, Informative)

drerwk (695572) | more than 5 years ago | (#27065385)

Cold is an absolute term in that you can have absolute zero. Hot is a relative term in that there is no absolute hot, just degrees. Well maybe not - seems like the Planck temperature at 10^32 Kelvin might be an absolute hot. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/zero/hot.html [pbs.org] Makes sense given a Planck length and Planck time.

Absolute Gibberish (1)

Ramze (640788) | more than 5 years ago | (#27066169)

What a lot of scientific sounding gibberish. You are confusing "heat" and lack thereof with the terms "hot" and "cold."

Hot and cold are both relative terms. Absolute zero is a theoretical temperature at which there is a complete lack of heat. (I say theoretical because it may not be possible to even reach absolute zero in our universe.) While that would likely be described as cold compared to any other temperature, it is not the definition of "cold." If two objects were at absolute zero, then one would not be cold compared to the other. If there is a maximum theoretical temperature, that would also not be the definition of "hot."

Cold, warm, and hot are adjectives used to describe the heat of something in relative terms. Absolute terms would be exact temperatures.

To turn your argument on it's head, cold is not only not absolute, it doesn't even exist. It is a relative term describing a lack of heat. Heat exists and cold is merely a description of the lack of it relative to some other amount of heat. Heat in terms of temperature is absolute.

Re:Absolute Gibberish (1)

raddan (519638) | more than 5 years ago | (#27066523)

Actually, technically speaking, heat is the transfer of energy from one body to another through a heat transfer mechanism (conduction, convection, raditation, etc). So the word "heat" itself is also a relative term, since it does not make any sense outside of the transfer of it. Energy is the absolute term you are talking about. Temperature is also a relative term. The common temperature scales, Kelvin, Celsius, Fahrenheit, are calibrated with respect to an ideal reference system; they are meaningless outside of this reference system.

Re:Wow, Pluto and "hot" in the same sentence. (1)

wooferhound (546132) | more than 5 years ago | (#27065459)

There are cold spots on my wife . . .

Re:Wow, Pluto and "hot" in the same sentence. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27066067)

On heranus?

planetary sciences (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27064131)

Could someone tell the Earth and Planetary Sciences folks that their subject is (1) boring as hell, and (2) shouldn't even be tagged as space on slashdot because they are seriously impairing the coolness of the whole category.

Seriously, they're just rock nerds.

Re:planetary sciences (1)

BobReturns (1424847) | more than 5 years ago | (#27065709)

Yes, we are rock nerds. And we like it that way.
If you want to go on a website to mock nerds for something you're not interested in... well, you've certainly come to the wrong place.

Re:planetary sciences (1)

niktemadur (793971) | more than 5 years ago | (#27071149)

While the AC may just be trolling for a reaction, there is something in the general culture, even within science, to what he says.

Some years back, I spent the night as a layman at the UNAM observatory in Baja, with some astrophysicists taking measurements of Cepheid Variables in Andromeda. At some point, I asked one of the team members a question about recent developments in planetary astronomy (probably something to do with Cassini), check out his reply: "No idea, because as astrophysicists, we find small stuff like that boring". My jaw almost hit the floor with that offhanded dismissal coming from a professional astronomer.

Later in the night, I got him, and got him good, by asking him what mechanism allows for the behavior that Cepheid Variables display. He stuttered for a moment, visibly perplexed, and replied "I don't know, let me get back to you on that one". These guys have never asked themselves why the objects they've monitored for years behave the way they do.

That's been an inevitable problem that has plagued the scientific community for a long time - compartmentalization, which leads to a misguided sense of elitism, the equivalent of wearing horse blinders and being proud of it. Whatever happened to the intellectual restlessness that got these people into science in the first place? Where, when and why did they freeze up? Focusing on an academic specialty and sticking to it is the only way to get results in many cases, but not everywhere and/nor all the time.

Score big points for NASA, they've officially recognized and addressed via the situation via the Origins Program, an interdisciplinary network of data in which every area of knowledge is equally important, compelling and can only enrich all other areas.

The most famous case in point, for decades, paleontologists were searching for the source of mass extinctions by looking at the ground, not even contemplating the possibility that astronomical phenomena might have caused these events, as it was beyond their realm of study.

Here's another, anybody attempting to study the dynamics and evolution of spiral galaxies should take a long and hard look at the available data on Saturn's rings.

So basically, NASA's Origins Program is attempting to build bridges between ivory towers, and that can only be a good thing.

Re:planetary sciences (1)

lorelorn (869271) | more than 5 years ago | (#27072523)

To be fair, the ground is exactly where those paleontologists found the mass extinction evidence. That ground-based evidence pointed to an extraterrestrial origin that had not previously been considered, but no one worked out the reason by looking up with a telescope.

I won't pretend the hypothesis was accepted immediately but once the Yucatan crater was identified (by a satellite looking down, but that's more engineering than astronomy surely?) that was pretty much the clincher.

However it is good science where so-called 'separate' disciplines start working together, though it's pretty common. The Victorian-era divisions across science become more irrelevant daily, and only persist due to government and university funding models that still use them to determine grants allocation.

Fuel (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27064163)

So Pluto could be a useful fuel source when mankind starts to explore outside the solar system. I wonder in how many years/decades time this will be.

Tim

Re:Fuel (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27064315)

The methane clinging to Pluto is pretty darn thin. I wouldn't expect it to last very long.

methane (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27064187)

so when the fossil fuels run out, we can burn pluto till its gone (this may also be do-able for other kuiper belt objects)

Re:methane (1)

wooferhound (546132) | more than 5 years ago | (#27065483)

The Methane Tax would probably kill the idea.

Re:methane (1)

Tubal-Cain (1289912) | more than 5 years ago | (#27066295)

Methinks they need more oxygen if we are going to burn it.

Re:methane (1)

linzeal (197905) | more than 5 years ago | (#27067905)

What are you going to use to power the methane tankers to get out there and back?

Sheep (1)

unlametheweak (1102159) | more than 5 years ago | (#27064301)

These properties of Pluto's atmosphere may be due to the presence of pure methane patches or of a methane-rich layer covering the dwarf planet's surface."

These properties may also be do to the presence of sheep on Pluto.

Re:Sheep (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27064613)

I say we rename the planet to Dutch Oven.

Re:Sheep (1)

Hordeking (1237940) | more than 5 years ago | (#27064865)

These properties may also be do to the presence of sheep on Pluto.

Wouldn't it be more likely due to fleas on Pluto?

What have we learned? (1, Redundant)

ichbineinneuben (1065378) | more than 5 years ago | (#27064307)

So, scientists discover that pluto smells like butt.

Re:What have we learned? (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27064481)

methane doesn't smell of anything. its the other stuff such as SO2 that causes farts to smell.

if methane smelt bad we wouldn't have to add thiols(really stinky molecules) to mains gas to detect leaks.

Correction (-1)

that IT girl (864406) | more than 5 years ago | (#27064327)

"Using ESO's Very Large Telescope, astronomers have gained valuable new insights about the atmosphere of the dwarf no-longer-a-planet Pluto."

There, fixed that for you.

Re:Correction (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27064463)

6gaireohvjn3rehnv5rje6oahgre

That's my head slamming into the keyboard, by the way.

It *is* a dwarf planet, that's the whole point.

Also, saying "fixed that for you" does not make you sound clever. It makes you sound like an asshole.

Re:Correction (1)

that IT girl (864406) | more than 5 years ago | (#27064941)

Hey, was just trying to be funny... Cracked me up anyway. Chill, man. /. memes are great if you ask me.

Re:Correction (0, Offtopic)

that IT girl (864406) | more than 5 years ago | (#27065001)

Also I'd like to point out that jumping down someone's throat for making a joke, especially as an AC, makes you look like an asshole.

Re:Correction (1)

goltzc (1284524) | more than 5 years ago | (#27065943)

Also I'd like to point out that jumping down someone's throat for making a joke, especially as an AC, makes you an asshole.

There fixed that for you.

Re:Correction (1)

Notquitecajun (1073646) | more than 5 years ago | (#27065449)

[quote]6gaireohvwaaahwaaahwaaahwhateverjn3rehnv5rje6oahgre[/quote]

There, fixed that for you.

Seriously...with THAT big a target...

methan on pluto (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27064555)

so really pluto smells like ass?

It Ain't a Planet! (1)

Cornwallis (1188489) | more than 5 years ago | (#27064605)

Really.

Rubbing it in (3, Funny)

orkybash (1013349) | more than 5 years ago | (#27064633)

"new insights about the atmosphere of the dwarf planet Pluto"

Aww, come on, you guys are just rubbing it in now!

Re: Rubbing it in (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27064905)

Yeah fuck that, things should never change. Russia is still the USSR, the USA is still the colonies and Pluto is still a planet.

Re: Rubbing it in (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27064953)

Do you always lack a sense of humor or is it just where planets are concerned?

Re: Rubbing it in (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27066211)

It looks like you're the one without a sense of humour.

So... (3, Insightful)

FlyByPC (841016) | more than 5 years ago | (#27064665)

Given that it has both a moon and an atmosphere, are they going to admit that it's a planet (albeit a weird one) -- or do we let the definition become so strict that soon nothing qualifies as a planet anymore?

Eris (3, Informative)

corsec67 (627446) | more than 5 years ago | (#27064779)

If Pluto gets called a planet, then Eris [wikipedia.org] would also be called a planet, since it is bigger than Pluto. Otherwise "Planet" would be a very arbitrary definition.

Re:Eris (1)

Smidge207 (1278042) | more than 5 years ago | (#27065493)

Hail Eris -- full of mischief.

=Smidge=

Re:Eris (4, Funny)

mysticgoat (582871) | more than 5 years ago | (#27065849)

Eris should be called a planet.

If you don't invite her to the party, there will be hell to pay.

Re:Eris (1)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 5 years ago | (#27067749)

Come on, be fair: Eris is so gracious that she gives out lovely golden apples even when she's not invited to the party.

Re:Eris (1)

mysticgoat (582871) | more than 5 years ago | (#27070497)

I tip my hat to you; a more excellent reply. (The most excellent reply will of course go to that which is the fairest of them all.)

I've only now just noticed the kallistei references in the Disney rendition of Snow White. That is most interesting. Were the the Disney artists followers of the Sacred Chao? That would explain a few things.

Re:Eris (2, Insightful)

Nazlfrag (1035012) | more than 5 years ago | (#27066203)

It's not the size, its the shape and clearing of orbit. If we drop the clearing orbit and Pluto and Eris are in the club, so should be Ceres, Makemake and Haumea at least. I would like them all to go back to planet status, but it's unlikely. It's all the fault of Eris anyway, they wouldn't have reclassified poor Pluto if she was a little slimmer.

Pluto will always remain a planet to me. I'll start calling it a dwarf planet around the time I call 2^10 bytes a kibibyte or when hell freezes over, whichever comes first.

Re:Eris (1)

Estanislao Martnez (203477) | more than 5 years ago | (#27066509)

If Pluto gets called a planet, then Eris would also be called a planet, since it is bigger than Pluto. Otherwise "Planet" would be a very arbitrary definition.

But the deeper point is that, given our knowledge of astronomy, pretty much any definition of "planet" is arbitrary.

There's tons of stuff moving around in space, at all sorts of sizes, shapes, physical compositions, distributions of matter, trajectories, etc. They're trying to draw a line such that space-stuff on one side of the line count as "planets," and space-stuff on the other doesn't. No matter how carefully and precisely they draw the line, it is still hopelessly arbitrary: why draw the line here and not there?

The laws of physics really do not care whether any particular aggregate of stuff floating around in space is a "planet" or not. We can exhaust the actual facts that we can discover about space-stuff without settling the question of which of them are "planets.'

Re:Eris (1)

gomiam (587421) | more than 5 years ago | (#27069409)

No matter how carefully and precisely they draw the line, it is still hopelessly arbitrary: why draw the line here and not there?

Because drawing the line "here" (as in Pluto not being a planet because it hasn't cleared its orbit of debris, among other things) makes it much easier to decide than drawing the line "there" (as in "we found this big spheroid and we decided it was a planet, and now we know there are many things around the same size or bigger, but we don't want to turn back").

That just begs the question (1)

Estanislao Martnez (203477) | more than 5 years ago | (#27070051)

Because drawing the line "here" (as in Pluto not being a planet because it hasn't cleared its orbit of debris, among other things) makes it much easier to decide than drawing the line "there" (as in "we found this big spheroid and we decided it was a planet, and now we know there are many things around the same size or bigger, but we don't want to turn back").

This begs the question of why draw any line at all. Nature doesn't draw a line between planets and non-planets; why should scientists be so gung-ho on drawing one? All of the differences are differences of degree; why try to shoehorn everything into a difference of kind? The facts about the objects of either pseudo-kind will in the end be explained by appeal to the same laws of physics. The distinction has no predictive value at all.

In addition, how does the criterion you single out it make it any easier to decide where to draw the line? The decision was and still is controversial, which, prima facie, contradicts your claim that that criterion made it easier to decide. Isn't it probably the case that the only people who think the criterion makes it "much easier" to decide are probably those who agree with the criteria anyway? That would, once more, beg the question, because of course, it is very easy to agree with something you already agree with, isn't it?

Re:So... (3, Interesting)

Canazza (1428553) | more than 5 years ago | (#27064827)

"A dwarf planet, as defined by the International Astronomical Union (IAU), is a celestial body orbiting the Sun that is massive enough to be rounded by its own gravity but has not cleared its neighbouring region of planetesimals and is not a satellite."

By this definition, Neptune isn't a planet, it's a dwarf planet, because it hasn't cleared Pluto out of it's neighbouring region...

Re:So... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27065133)

Sure Neptune is, look up resonance orbits some time.

Re:So... (1)

Canazza (1428553) | more than 5 years ago | (#27065377)

From the GP:

do we let the definition become so strict that soon nothing qualifies as a planet anymore?

are people's sarcasm detectors malfunctioning today?

Re:So... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27066833)

All we have to do then is let Neptune and Pluto collide. Neptune will get a nice bruise like Jupiter got when Shoemaker-Levy crashed into its atmosphere. Then we can stop worrying about whether Pluto is a planet or not. It's not like Pluto was ever really planet sized anyways. It looks like an asteroid.

Re:So... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27069563)

By this definition, Neptune isn't a planet, it's a dwarf planet, because it hasn't cleared Pluto out of it's neighbouring region...

And interestingly enough, it never will.

http://www.astronomycafe.net/qadir/q364.html[www.astronomycafe.net] [astronomycafe.net]

Re:So... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27070321)

Neptune's and Pluto's orbit don't intersect, they are not even close at all (relatively speaking).

Re:So... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27065299)

or do we let the definition become so strict that soon nothing qualifies as a planet anymore?

The ancient Greeks first defined planets and the definition has only become more loose since then. The problem was that if you consider Pluto to be a planet, there are literally thousand of other objects that meet such a broad definition. The Pluto is by no means unique. It was just easier to find than all the similar ones. Hell, there are comets with atmospheres and smaller bodies orbiting. Do you really want to memorize over 100 planets?

People want Pluto to be a planet for emotional reasons, get over it, please.

Re:So... (3, Funny)

M8e (1008767) | more than 5 years ago | (#27068831)

Do you really want to memorize over 100 elements? NO! There should only be five! Aether, Air, Earth, Fire and Water!

Do you really want to memorize over 100 countries? NO! There should only be one per continent!

Re:So... (4, Insightful)

wooferhound (546132) | more than 5 years ago | (#27065547)

Earth will Always be a planet and all other space objects will be compared against it.
If we get too picky then Earth will be the Only planet as nothing else will fit the description of Earth.

Re:So... (2, Informative)

GreenCow (201973) | more than 5 years ago | (#27066735)

This is why we have different categories of planets.

Earth is the only Class M planet in the solar system.

Of course, with terraforming, Mars might join us in that someday.

Looking through: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Class_M_planet

It seems like pluto should be a class K, or possibly a class D.

Re:So... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27066971)

Just because it has an atmosphere and moon shouldn't necessitate calling it a 'planet'. Jupiter, Saturn, and Neptune have moons with atmospheres of comparable magnitude or thicker than Pluto's. And there are asteroids less than 100km across that have their own moons.

Re:So... (1)

Johnny Mnemonic (176043) | more than 5 years ago | (#27067615)

I would think that a planet could be defined as having a regular orbit, with only slight variance. "Slight" of course being subjective, but by no definition would Pluto's eccentricity be considered slight.

Also, it might be required to be in the orbital plane, but that would require at least two other planetary bodies.

Pluto Lives (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27064761)

Bring back Pluto the Planet.

Yuggoth (1)

Pond823 (643768) | more than 5 years ago | (#27064787)

It's been 'terraformed' in line with Yuggoth.

Y'know what I don't get.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27064839)

<rant>

That they decided to demote it from being a planet simply because we've learned enough about it to know it shouldn't have been called that in the first place.

"Atom" was supposed to be the smallest possible thing, so small as to be utterly indivisible, yet when things smaller than what was thought to be the atom were discovered, they didn't go around saying that the elements weren't atoms anymore, even though "atomic" still means "indivisible".

I can appreciate that by the criteria that actually exist for a planet, that Pluto would fail to qualify, and I firmly believe that such information should readily accompany any educational article that might exist about it, but I'm one of those people who thinks that Pluto should have remained a planet (or a "double planet", more precisely). This would not have necessitated permitting other objects which were known to not to be planets from being admitted into the category because the argument would remain that Pluto would only still be considered a planet because all technical observations that were available at the time of its discovery appeared to indicate that it qualified as such, much as how the elements were originally defined as atoms, long before it was discovered there was something smaller. Specifically, then, pluto should be an "honorary planet", not because of the debate about whether or not it was ever a planet to begin with, but because there was *NO* a debate about the matter for many years because until more precise measurements were available, nobody really knew that it didn't actually qualify. We can admit that we were wrong and Pluto shouldn't have been called one in the first place, but it just seems wrong, somehow, to demote an object that has held onto that status for so long simply because we didn't know enough about the object to make the distinction when it was discovered.

</rant>

Re:Y'know what I don't get.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27065785)

Who cares what the IAU thinks anyway? Pluto was called a planet long before the IAU ever even existed so who gives them the right to play these word games and why should people accept their opinion as gospel?

Pluto will always be a planet to me regardless of what any IAU astronomical punk insists on spouting.

Anyway so now Pluto is a "dwarf planet"

A "moon chair" is in the superset of chairs.
A "dwarf planet" is in the superset of planets.

It seems to me using plain english its no less correct to call a "moon chair" a chair than it is to call a "dwarf planet" a planet. Your loosing some specificity but people have an amazing nack for communicating simple concepts effectivly using small words without the constant need to resort to IQ embelleshing academic snobbery.

I will continue to call pluto a planet for as long as I live regardless of what IAU or any lemming punk follower of the IAU has to say.

Cowabunga (0, Troll)

flyingfsck (986395) | more than 5 years ago | (#27064989)

Well, obviously there must be super cool space cows living on Pluto - if we have to believe that all hydrocarbons are the result of organic life - and not the other way around.

It sounds like we really need to start working on reversing the anthropogenic global warming of Pluto.

liquid methane (1)

pha7boy (1242512) | more than 5 years ago | (#27065117)

wouldn't methane at -180C be in liquid form? (boiling point is -161C)

Re:liquid methane (4, Informative)

jschen (1249578) | more than 5 years ago | (#27065269)

The boiling point depends on the atmospheric pressure. Boiling points are typically reported based on sea level on Earth. With a much lower atmospheric pressure on Pluto, boiling points will drop.

Re:liquid methane (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27065415)

wouldn't methane at -180C be in liquid form? (boiling point is -161C)

What makes you think the pressure on Pluto is the same as on Earth? I would assume the pressure even at the surface is close to zero.

Re:liquid methane (1)

XSpud (801834) | more than 5 years ago | (#27066419)

As other replies have stated it depends on the pressure and at about 0.15 atm or less, it will be a gas at this temperature.

However, the triple-point of methane is at about 0.1 atm which means that methane cannot exist in liquid form anyway given the very low atmospheric pressure on Pluto (1/100,000 atm or less). If you reduce the temperature by just a few degrees the gaseous methane will deposit as a solid, without passing through the liquid phase and in fact, solid methane is found on the surface of pluto.

All of those pollutants! (0, Troll)

tjstork (137384) | more than 5 years ago | (#27065201)

Gee, the solar system is filled methane, hydrogen, and carbon dioxide. If we are to say that were are going to a natural universe, then, if anything is a pollutant, it is our planet's low CO2 and low methane atmosphere.

Re:All of those pollutants! (1)

Urkki (668283) | more than 5 years ago | (#27068217)

Not to mention all the sulfuric acid, which is keeping Venus's atmosphere so fresh and healthy. For instance, asthma is completely nonexistent on Venus!

We were doing a nice job increasing sulfur content of Earths atmosphere, until those tree-hugger wackos got sulfur emissions severely restricted... And now they're trying to do it to CO2 as well! They must be stopped!

Methane? (1)

CopaceticOpus (965603) | more than 5 years ago | (#27065593)

It must be dwarf cows! Herds of tiny bovines roam Pluto's surface. It takes seven of them to make the galaxy's most expensive burger.

Dwarf Planet?!? (1)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 5 years ago | (#27066097)

We prefer to be called a "gravitational mass challenged planet", you insensitive clod!

Re:Dwarf Planet?!? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27071599)

That was painfully unfunny.

Intriguing (1)

ZankerH (1401751) | more than 5 years ago | (#27066847)

I wonder how how much of whatever the New Horizons probe finds during it's Pluto fly-by in 2015 will already be known by then, when you take the ever improving optics and other remote viewing technology into account.

Methane and the presence of life (1)

Johnny Mnemonic (176043) | more than 5 years ago | (#27067677)

The presence of methane on Mars is considered a strong indicator of some form of current life there.

http://www.universetoday.com/2004/03/30/whats-creating-the-methane-life-or-volcanoes/ [universetoday.com]

While there are natural processes that can produce it, it decays quickly and so it is more likely that an organism is providing consistent replenishment.

However, I don't think anyone expects that Pluto would be able to support life--too too cold. Is there some explanation for natural forming, and natural persisting, on Pluto that makes sense that does not imply the presence of life?

Titan all over again? (1)

Iowan41 (1139959) | more than 5 years ago | (#27070519)

And we won't be able to see the surface with the flyby in 2015?
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