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Vesta Is a Baby Planet, Not an Asteroid

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the in-your-face-pluto dept.

NASA 107

astroengine writes "Vesta, the second largest object in the main asteroid belt, has an iron core, a varied surface, layers of rock and possibly a magnetic field — all signs of a planet in the making, not an asteroid (abstract). This is the conclusion of an international team of scientists treated to a virtual front row seat at Vesta for the past 10 months, courtesy of NASA's Dawn robotic probe. Their findings were presented during a NASA press conference on Thursday. As to why Vesta never made it to full planethood, scientists point to Jupiter. When the giant gas planet formed, nearby bodies such as Vesta found their orbits perturbed. 'Jupiter started to act like a spoon in a pot, stirring up the asteroid belt and the asteroids started bumping into one another,' said Dawn lead scientist Christopher Russell. 'If they're just out there gently orbiting and everything is going smoothly, then without Jupiter in the picture, they would gather mass and get bigger and bigger and bigger. But with Jupiter there, stirring the pot, then the asteroids start bumping into one another and breaking apart, so nothing grew in that region, but started to shrink.'"

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bonch! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39973151)

bonch! bonch! He's our man! If he can't shill for it! No one can!

Pluto? (4, Interesting)

sunderland56 (621843) | more than 2 years ago | (#39973169)

So Pluto was deemed just another large chunk of space debris orbiting the earth, and hence not a planet. Vesta *is* just a large asteroid amongst a whole bunch of others, but it is a planet?

I'm confused now.

Re:Pluto? (-1)

LostCluster (625375) | more than 2 years ago | (#39973217)

Planets orbit the sun, asteroids orbit something else. If a rock among other rocks is orbiting the sun, and it meets the other qualifications, it's a planet..

Re:Pluto? (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39973311)

Planets orbit the sun, asteroids orbit something else. If a rock among other rocks is orbiting the sun, and it meets the other qualifications, it's a planet..

No. Asteroids orbit the sun.

A spherical object orbiting the sun and has cleared its orbit of other large objects is a planet.

Pluto Takes Out Neptune (1)

lemur3 (997863) | more than 2 years ago | (#39973977)

So.. if Pluto takes out Neptune.. can it be a planet.. seeing as it cleared its orbit ?

Re:Pluto Takes Out Neptune (3, Funny)

petsounds (593538) | more than 2 years ago | (#39974861)

And if a group of pro-Plutoans happen to make Neptune...disappear...does Pluto still get planetary status?

Re:Pluto? (2)

symbolset (646467) | more than 2 years ago | (#39976207)

Asteroids usually orbit the sun. Sometimes for a little while they'll set up unstable orbits around some other body, like the Earth or the Moon on a brief vacation - and then continue on their voyage..

Re:Pluto? (1)

Karmashock (2415832) | more than 2 years ago | (#39977645)

They seem to be saying it's in an asteroid belt... which implies it didn't clear it's orbit? I'm asking not telling... I really have no idea. I'm still shocked pluto lost it's title... mostly because it was named Pluto which in the context of the other planet names is fitting. If we start naming the new planets with a different convention it will be annoying.

Re:Pluto? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39973731)

Planets orbit the sun, asteroids orbit something else. If a rock among other rocks is orbiting the sun, and it meets the other qualifications, it's a planet..

How could someone so obviously clueless about the makeup of our solar system feel compelled to comment on that post?

Re:Pluto? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39974409)

How could someone so obviously clueless about the makeup of our solar system feel compelled to comment on that post?

How could someone so obviously clueless about the makeup of Slashdot feel compelled to comment on that comment?

Re:Pluto? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39973229)

So Pluto was deemed just another large chunk of space debris orbiting the earth, and hence not a planet. Vesta *is* just a large asteroid amongst a whole bunch of others, but it is a planet?

I'm confused now.

Well, yeah, one of the definitions of a planet is that it has cleared its orbital neighborhood [wikipedia.org] , so of course.

Wait, that didn't explain anything!

Re:Pluto? (4, Informative)

Xtifr (1323) | more than 2 years ago | (#39973381)

The abstract specifically says that Vesta is not an asteroid. When Ceres was reclassified as a dwarf planet, there was some question about Vesta, because it's not a proper spheroid. The question is: was it deformed by external forces or was it just never able to form a proper spheroid?

Since "baby planet" is not a proper IAU category, I think this means either A) it's a dwarf planet, like Pluto or Ceres, or B) the question is still open, but we've learned something new about its origin--a completely separate matter.

I think the IAU definitions are extremely silly, but I also think it's extremely silly think that Pluto is special, or any more deserving of planet status than Ceres, which was not considered a planet for many, many years. Personally, I'd rather see a definition of planet that includes Ceres and excludes Pluto than the reverse. (Though I'm also open to a definition that includes Ceres, Pluto, Luna, Ganymede, Titan, and more.)

Re:Pluto? (1)

runeghost (2509522) | more than 2 years ago | (#39973539)

Just like the term 'star' actually covers a huge range of objects with some basic similarities (fusion-driven radiation emitters), so does the word 'planet'. We have terrestrial planets, ice giants, gas giants, ice dwarfs, and now apparently surviving protoplanets like Vesta.

Re:Pluto? (3, Insightful)

Sperbels (1008585) | more than 2 years ago | (#39973771)

(fusion-driven radiation emitters)

That doesn't seem to work for white dwarf stars.

Re:Pluto? (1)

Sulphur (1548251) | more than 2 years ago | (#39973929)

(fusion-driven radiation emitters)

That doesn't seem to work for white dwarf stars.

No more (planets) for the dee-warf.

Re:Pluto? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39973975)

Yes it does. A white dwarf would still be a gas cloud if not for all the intervening star formation and fusion. The fact that the fusion driving the white dwarf's radiation is in the past doesn't make the fusion not responsible for its current state.

Re:Pluto? (1)

Teancum (67324) | more than 2 years ago | (#39975617)

But that does get into the issue of "brown dwarfs" where fusion hasn't started, trying to distinguish them from objects like Jupiter.

Calling a "star" something that has actual fusion going on in its core should be sufficient to distinguish it from other smaller mass objects.

Besides, in the cosmological zoo, you could call white dwarfs kind of their own type of beast with its own unique area of classification. The problem with Vesta is that there has been some silly attempt to define a planet with a heliocentric definition that makes absolutely no sense at all in terms of trying to define other objects that may be called "planets". With new discoveries of exo-solar planets happening all of the time, the IAU definition of a planet seems more and more off the mark, especially its "orbit clearing" definition.

I don't mind a mass-based definition, or one that tries to include atmospheres into the calculation. For example, dwarf planets don't hold a "substantial" atmosphere (more than a few millibars of surface pressure) but do have some "geological" (however you define that term for other bodies) stratification in the interior and some "rounding" due to gravity, terrestrial planets (for want of a better term) have that atmosphere but the atmosphere still is a minority of the mass, and then gas giants are those bodies which the gaseous atmospheres dominate the mass of the object.

It is too bad the IAU didn't use such a definition, as it would work with exo-solar planets as well. I hope they do something like this even if Pluto remains a dwarf planet under such a definition.

Re:Pluto? (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 2 years ago | (#39976533)

But that does get into the issue of "brown dwarfs" where fusion hasn't started, trying to distinguish them from objects like Jupiter.

Calling a "star" something that has actual fusion going on in its core should be sufficient to distinguish it from other smaller mass objects.

How about calling a "star" something that has or had actual fusion going on, thus distinguishing it from anything that was never massive enough to fuse hydrogen.

A white dwarf is a stage in the post-fusion life of a star that wasn't massive enough to become a neutron star, but like a neutron star becomes a form of degenerate matter -- there's no reason to call one a star and not the other. It is nothing like a brown dwarf where it really is a matter of degree that separates it from jupiter, not kind.

Besides, in the cosmological zoo, you could call white dwarfs kind of their own type of beast with its own unique area of classification.

Including white dwarf as a type of late-life star does nothing to prohibit you further classification.

With new discoveries of exo-solar planets happening all of the time, the IAU definition of a planet seems more and more off the mark, especially its "orbit clearing" definition.

The IAU smartly avoiding the question of exoplanets until we know more about them. It's the best thing about the definition.

Our exoplanet discoveries so far have given no indication that the 'orbit clearing' criterion is a problem because our instruments can't possibly detect if there are large belts of material to go with the super-earths and super-jupiters. It was only 20 years ago that we could tell that Pluto wasn't the only significant object in its orbit.

There's a ton we don't know, but we have seen systems with more complex orbits than what we have, and systems with types of planets in places we didn't expect them. These could conceivably require a change the definition, but shouldn't we wait until we have observed more to see if there are any characteristics that might suggest a useful classification rather than just leaping to some supposedly universal definition? We might just find some five order of magnitude gap like we have with 'orbit clearing' around Sol that makes a clear delineation between types of stellar systems or objects in them.

That's what I don't get: You rag on the IAU for updating an object's classification that only resulted from a 60-year misunderstanding of its place in the solar system while codifying the intuition that led to that original classification by pointing at an observed five order of magnitude gap in the property in question.

And then you turn around and propose that the IAU leap to defining "planet" for all stellar systems despite us knowing barely anything about the rest of the universe of planets, and advocating for distinguishing based on a property we already know from our own system has fine gradations with no clear divisions like atmospheric pressure.

"Classification updates from 80 years of additional scientific development based on clear observable distinctions bad, classification based on snaps to judgement on where to draw arbitrary lines good!"

That's what makes no sense.

Re:Pluto? (1)

Teancum (67324) | more than 2 years ago | (#39976663)

I'm ragging on a faulty redefinition when previously there was none at all, other than a convention of simply calling the largest objects in the Solar System "planets".

For myself, I could care less if you call Pluto a planet or not, and in a way I look at the IAU definition as sort of "promoting" Ceres instead to be recognized as a planet and something unique instead of just being another asteroid. Vesta and Pallas fit into this sort of "promotion" category as well. The earlier description wasn't really a misunderstanding, but simply a lack of sufficient ontological discussion about how things like planets ought to be described and distinguished.

My issue with the heliocentric definition is that technically all of the "exo-solar planets" aren't really planets according to the IAU definition, as none of them orbit the Sun.... one of the major criteria to be called a planet from the definition itself. The definition also doesn't deal with the age of the star system (being early in the development of the star system may have many more objects for the "clearing orbit" definition) and other related issues. What is worse, when the IAU definition was being proposed, exo-solar planets had already been discovered.

Sure, we didn't know anything about exo-solar planets, but that just implied that the definition needed to be completely revamped at a future date, which looks like that may need to be the case sooner than later. Besides, you can't possibly point out other star systems as being very well explored as the smallest bodies being discovered now are roughly the size of the Earth. When you are talking about "orbit clearing" as per the IAU definition, it is involving objects considerably smaller.

We should try to modify the definition of non-stellar objects in the universe in some way that recognized the diversity of those objects. We now have identified several hundred thousand objects in our Solar System alone, not to mention about 500 exo-solar planets (using the definition of big ass things orbiting a distant star but not being a star as the definition of those objects) and a few independent brown dwarfs. A better way to describe these objects can be found than what the IAU currently uses for defining a planet. This does have relevance because studying some kinds of objects can give you legitimate areas of comparison. It is awesome that we now have a sample size greater than one of stellar planetary systems, but it can be improved upon.

Re:Pluto? (1)

snowgirl (978879) | more than 2 years ago | (#39974151)

Titan does not orbit the sun directly...

Re:Pluto? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39974445)

Titan does not orbit the sun directly...

Neither does "Luna"... *

*some might argue it is a double planet system, in which case, I withdraw my snarky comment

Re:Pluto? (2)

snowgirl (978879) | more than 2 years ago | (#39974739)

Titan does not orbit the sun directly...

Neither does "Luna"... *

*some might argue it is a double planet system, in which case, I withdraw my snarky comment

Well, if the Earth is a double planet system, then Pluto and Charon even more so would be a double planet system, considering at least that the point of rotation in the Earth-Moon system is located within the Earth, while Pluto-Charon orbits around a point in open space...

Note that I did not mention any of the other planetoids specifically because I only needed on counter example. And "Luna == the Earth's moon" is kind of weird nomenclature for me. (Yes, I do know it's correct, but still.)

Re:Pluto? (2)

Teancum (67324) | more than 2 years ago | (#39975877)

Pluto+Charon are a double dwarf planet system. On the other hand, I would call Luna (more correctly... The Moon, which is its proper Anglo-Saxon name) a dwarf planet as well.

If there is a term to be depreciated, it would be "moon", other than in connection with objects orbiting inside of the Hill sphere [wikipedia.org] of a non-stellar body. A better term would be satellite, other than the fact that "artificial satellites" seem to have taken on the term. An object orbiting another object which is in turn orbiting a 3rd object (all within nested Hill Spheres of progressively larger objects) has not been discovered yet where the first object is "natural" (hasn't been put there by the hand of mankind) and all three are not stellar objects. A Moon of Ganymede or Titan seems a little far fetched, and their Hill spheres are pretty small due to their proximity to the planets they orbit respectively, even though the Hill spheres of Jupiter and Saturn in respect to the Sun certainly are large enough to incorporate those two objects.

The concept of a Hill sphere does work with asteroids that have satellites of their own, but the point here is that the definition of a planet doesn't need to even worry about the fact that it may or may not be a satellite of something else.

Re:Pluto? (1)

snowgirl (978879) | more than 2 years ago | (#39976063)

Pluto+Charon are a double dwarf planet system. On the other hand, I would call Luna (more correctly... The Moon, which is its proper Anglo-Saxon name) a dwarf planet as well.

Except by that definition, then the Earth has not cleared its orbit...

Re:Pluto? (1)

Teancum (67324) | more than 2 years ago | (#39976549)

Except by that definition, then the Earth has not cleared its orbit...

Neither has Jupiter, Saturn, or Mars, and arguably Neptune as well. Even Uranus has "large planetary-like objects" near it.

Is Venus genuinely the only real planet in the Solar System?

That is why the whole notion of clearing out the orbit is as silly as any other part of the IAU definition.

Re:Pluto? (1)

snowgirl (978879) | more than 2 years ago | (#39977015)

Except by that definition, then the Earth has not cleared its orbit...

Neither has Jupiter, Saturn, or Mars, and arguably Neptune as well. Even Uranus has "large planetary-like objects" near it.

Is Venus genuinely the only real planet in the Solar System?

That is why the whole notion of clearing out the orbit is as silly as any other part of the IAU definition.

Except "cleared its orbit" does not include any satellites, and also does not include small masses (non-planetoids). So, my definition has no problem with downgrading everything except Venus, because the satellites do not count. However, if you consider Luna/The Moon as a dwarf planet, now you have the Earth in an orbit with a dwarf planet, and thus no eligible for the "planet" nomenclature.

My definition doesn't have a problem... sure it's arbitrary, but it doesn't have a problem. Your alternatives however do....

Re:Pluto? (1)

Teancum (67324) | more than 2 years ago | (#39978229)

You are presuming that I'm trying to define a planet with the notion that clearing out its orbital path is a prerequisite. I'm suggesting that the whole notion is absurd in the first place that it should even be a part of the definition. Orbit clearing is simply not even necessary to be in the definition. Then again I'm also suggesting that the heliocentric definition by the IAU is just as absurd as it requires that planets also must orbit the Sun, and any object which does not orbit the Sun is thus not properly called a planet... even if it happens to orbit another star or simply orbits the center of the galaxy.

Re:Pluto? (1)

dylan_- (1661) | more than 2 years ago | (#39981393)

even if it happens to orbit another star or simply orbits the center of the galaxy.

Hmm... [tinypic.com]

Re:Pluto? (1)

snowgirl (978879) | more than 2 years ago | (#39981435)

You are presuming that I'm trying to define a planet with the notion that clearing out its orbital path is a prerequisite. I'm suggesting that the whole notion is absurd in the first place that it should even be a part of the definition. Orbit clearing is simply not even necessary to be in the definition. Then again I'm also suggesting that the heliocentric definition by the IAU is just as absurd as it requires that planets also must orbit the Sun, and any object which does not orbit the Sun is thus not properly called a planet... even if it happens to orbit another star or simply orbits the center of the galaxy.

Except the "heliocentric" IAU model makes no such claim. The IAU classification system only applies within the Sol System. Extending it outside the Sol System is as easy as: "orbits the stellar mass(es) directly" instead of "orbits the Sun directly".

More specifically and pedantically, the exact IAU text bolded for emphasis:

The IAU...resolves that planets and other bodies in the Solar System be defined into three distinct categories in the following way:

This is clearly interpreted as: "the IAU is making rules about the Solar System, and the Solar System only, these rules do not apply outside of the Solar System."

Beyond the IAU specification, the loosely but not strictly established definition of a planet is an object orbiting a stellar mass(es) directly, and is not a stellar mass itself. With the pedantically added inclusion of "is also not a Brown Dwarf"...

Re:Pluto? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39976367)

Actually, the center of gravity of the Earth-Moon system is still well witihn the nickel-iron core in the center of the Earth, so you could say that since we're by far the dominant mass in the system that we're the planet and the Moon is a moon.

Re:Pluto? (1)

Xtifr (1323) | more than 2 years ago | (#39976423)

Titan does not orbit the sun directly...

Wow, really? :)

And would change what we call it change that? Why should orbital characteristics be a factor in planethood at all? Of course, calling it a planet won't make it stop being a moon of Saturn. By why should it only be known as a moon? There are plenty of moons that couldn't meet the definition of dwarf planet (let alone planet) even if they did orbit the sun directly. Phobos and Deimos, for example. Why not say that Titan is both a small planet and a moon of Saturn?

What would you call a large object the exact size of Earth that wasn't orbiting anything, but was just travelling on its own through interstellar space? I think it should be called a planet, but for some reason, the IAU doesn't think that's acceptable.

I think it would be much simpler and more sensible to have the word planet describe the object itself, and not some unrelated factors like how and what it orbits. Stars are round and big enough to trigger fusion. Planets are round and don't fuse. Asteroids aren't round. What's wrong with that definition?

Re:Pluto? (1)

snowgirl (978879) | more than 2 years ago | (#39976991)

Stars are round and big enough to trigger fusion. ... What's wrong with that definition?

Firstly what is wrong, is that there are stars that do not undergo fusion...

Re:Pluto? (1)

Xtifr (1323) | more than 2 years ago | (#39977135)

Firstly what is wrong, is that there are stars that do not undergo fusion...

If you mean brown dwarfs, I'm open to tweaking the definitions to fit them in in either category, though I'd personally tend towards categorizing them as planets. If you're referring to ex-stars, I was glossing over that for simplicity's sake. Let's say, round and big enough to have triggered fusion at some point. Or you could simply call them ex-stars. :)

Re:Pluto? (1)

snowgirl (978879) | more than 2 years ago | (#39977215)

Or you could simply call them ex-stars.

Why multiply terms unnecessarily?

Re:Pluto? (3, Interesting)

Iskender (1040286) | more than 2 years ago | (#39974329)

I'd rather see a definition of planet that includes Ceres and excludes Pluto than the reverse.

I don't see what would put Ceres and Pluto in different categories under any system. Neither has cleared its orbit (I too think this is a silly criterion.) Both have the hydrostatic equilibrium thing going. Both orbit the sun directly.

Well, there *is* one peculiarity about Pluto: the barycenter of the Pluto-Charon system is outside both. While I dislike the clear the neighbourhood criterion I think this system is actually the strongest proof of the current planet definition being temporary: Pluto-Charon is a binary (dwarf) planet, yet no one has bothered to even mention Charon. Instead one of our current dwarf planets orbits an empty piece of space.

Re:Pluto? (1)

Xtifr (1323) | more than 2 years ago | (#39976471)

I don't see what would put Ceres and Pluto in different categories under any system.

How about composition and origin? Ceres is a rocky object, similar to Mercury or Io. Pluto is a giant snowball--basically a big-ass comet. Ditto for Eris, which isn't subject to your objection about its binary-system status.

Neil DeGrasse Tyson uses the "Pluto is just a big comet" as one of his main excuses for defending the decision to stop calling Pluto a planet. Well, guess what? That doesn't apply to Ceres. But it is still an important distinction between Pluto and all the objects we historically refer to as planets. Which is why I say I'd find such a definition acceptable.

Of course, if you're going by compositional similarity, then putting Mercury and Jupiter in the same category is also silly. Which is why my preferred solution is to make "planet" a super-category that includes 1) gas giants, 2) round rocky objects, and 3) round comet-like objects. I wouldn't bother to mention orbits at all. Orbital characteristics should be part of a separate classification system, IMO.

Re:Pluto? (1)

Iskender (1040286) | more than 2 years ago | (#39977895)

Of course, if you're going by compositional similarity, then putting Mercury and Jupiter in the same category is also silly. Which is why my preferred solution is to make "planet" a super-category that includes 1) gas giants, 2) round rocky objects, and 3) round comet-like objects. I wouldn't bother to mention orbits at all. Orbital characteristics should be part of a separate classification system, IMO.

I agree completely about the super-category part.

I wouldn't change the orbit definition, mostly because another huge can of worms would be opened then. : )

Re:Pluto? (1)

arth1 (260657) | more than 2 years ago | (#39981479)

Well, there *is* one peculiarity about Pluto: the barycenter of the Pluto-Charon system is outside both.

While the Pluto/Charon system has a barycenter outside Pluto's surface, it's so much closer to Pluto that it would be wrong to consider them a binary system more any more than the Sun/Jupiter system is a binary system. Remember that barycenter of Jupiter and the Sun is also outside the sun - that doesn't make us demote the sun or promote Jupiter from planet status to stellar companion.

Instead one of our current dwarf planets orbits an empty piece of space.

I'll bite. Which one? Mercury? But it has planet status.
No other small object really has a clear orbit.

Re:Pluto? (4, Funny)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 2 years ago | (#39974913)

Since "baby planet" is not a proper IAU category, I think this means either A) it's a dwarf planet, like Pluto or Ceres, or B) the question is still open, but we've learned something new about its origin--a completely separate matter.

It's not a baby planet, it's not a dwarf planet. It's a proto-planet stuck in proto- state due to Jupiter.

I like to think of it as an aborted planet.

Obviously we need to outlaw Jupiter to prevent further proto-planet abortions.. Furthermore, we need full funding of a federal agency to ensure Jupiter isn't available to all wanton sinners who would otherwise bring a planet to full term.

Well, folks, seems to me like we finally figured out how to ensure NASA's budget isn't axed.

Re:Pluto? (1)

rtb61 (674572) | more than 2 years ago | (#39977019)

For an object of that size to have an iron core means it is the debris of another planet. Simply insufficient mass to allow gravity to maintain a inner molten state and promote the refinement of iron from the collection of accumulated dust.

Sure it's an very old chunk of debris that over the aeons has accumulated new layers of dust, but it hardly is a proto planet, wrong type of core.

So pieces of Vesta found on earth on pieces of the planet Vesta was once a part of found on earth. Astronomers so hate catastrophic planetary formation, is just so terrifying this science had it not too distant roots in denial of meteor impacts for the same reason. Yes we could all get wiped out, random probability based upon out lack of knowledge, and just as likely to happen on 12 of December 2012 as in the past for the Dinosaurs or not happen at all for millions of years.

Galaxies collide, suns collide and planets collide, get over it already.

Re:Pluto? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39973411)

Um, the summary says it might have become a planet, but didn't.

So basically Vesta is Earth's aborted little sister.

Pluto on the other hand is a "dwarf planet" which is presumably something like the lazy uncle's helper monkey.

Re:Pluto? (3, Funny)

colinrichardday (768814) | more than 2 years ago | (#39973513)

So basically Vesta is Earth's aborted little sister.

Oh great, give the Republicans another excuse to cut science funding.

Re:Pluto? (1)

slew (2918) | more than 2 years ago | (#39974293)

Um, the summary says it might have become a planet, but didn't.

So basically Vesta is Earth's aborted little sister.

Pluto on the other hand is a "dwarf planet" which is presumably something like the lazy uncle's helper monkey.

Well, Vesta is proably more like Ceres dwarf fraternal twin sister than Earth's (shared the same rough orbital distance or "womb" as Ceres, but didn't quite make it to planet status and became a dwarf twin to a dwarf planet). Basically one princess would have to kill the other princess to clear out the orbit/castle to become the queen of the orbit and become a planet. Unfortunatly, the chaotic life that they lead in the same castle (like prince charles and camilla) and the influence of a powerful royal in nearby castle (the king of the gods [wikipedia.org] ) will probably prevent either of them from ever ruling the their castle.

Pluto on the other hand is George O'Leary [cnn.com] (or maybe in time Yahoo's Scott Thompson). Originally thought to have the required blood-line, but even after a successful career, new lines of inquiry revealed that the blood-line didn't exist and then was kicked out, but went on to live a prosperous life in as the king of the dwarfs instead of the dwarf of the kings...

Re:Pluto? (4, Interesting)

harperska (1376103) | more than 2 years ago | (#39974565)

No, what they have found, and what makes this newsworthy, is that Vesta's composition is much more like the terrestrials (Mercury, Venus, Earth, Luna, Mars) than what they believe Ceres' composition is. They now believe that Vesta belongs to the terrestrial family, having a silicate rock crust/mantle surrounding an iron core. Ceres, on the other hand, is probably made primarily of an ice crust/mantle with a rock core, putting it in the same family as the moons of the gas giants, and the Kuiper Belt objects like Pluto. So while Ceres and Vesta live in the same castle, they are adopted from different families.

They will know more when Dawn leaves Vesta and visits Ceres, though.

Re:Pluto? (1)

slew (2918) | more than 2 years ago | (#39975103)

So while Ceres and Vesta live in the same castle, they are adopted from different families.

Since they probably were both "conceived" from matter from the same protoplanetary disc, it's might be considered more akin to Heteropaternal superfecundation, than adoption from different families (which might imply that one of them came from another star system and was "captured" in that orbit).

Re:Pluto? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39973415)

You are confused. Pluto was deemed a proto-planet. As in, a smaller sized planet. The asteroid is in the planet-making stage. Before a "Pluto"

Re:Pluto? (1)

Jeng (926980) | more than 2 years ago | (#39973423)

Probably needs to be confirmed and voted on before they can change it's official certification from asteroid to dwarf planet.

i'ts not that complicated (1)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 2 years ago | (#39973457)

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/91/EightTNOs.png [wikimedia.org]

in the last decade, they started to find a lot more plutos. so the question is do we have 10, 16, 54 planets? or do we say "look, pluto doesn't really fit the idea of something large that controls its orbit, so it's not a planet" and so we only have 8 planets

it's a perfectly good decision

Re:Pluto? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39973463)

Pluto: dwarf planet

Ceres: dwarf planet

Vesta: proto-planet

None of them are true planets, but they do fall on the planet spectrum.

Re:Pluto? (1)

wcrowe (94389) | more than 2 years ago | (#39973635)

...space debris orbiting the earth...

Wait, Pluto orbits the Earth now?

Re:Pluto? (5, Funny)

osu-neko (2604) | more than 2 years ago | (#39974045)

...space debris orbiting the earth...

Wait, Pluto orbits the Earth now?

Everything orbits the Earth. Heliocentrism is a fraud, brought to use by the same "scientists" as evolution, global warming, and that dubious round-earth theory. :p

Re:Pluto? (2)

snowgirl (978879) | more than 2 years ago | (#39974183)

...space debris orbiting the earth...

Wait, Pluto orbits the Earth now?

Everything orbits the Earth. Heliocentrism is a fraud, brought to use by the same "scientists" as evolution, global warming, and that dubious round-earth theory. :p

Exactly! Everyone knows that Pluto orbits in an epicycle [wikipedia.org] !

Re:Pluto? (2)

Requiem18th (742389) | more than 2 years ago | (#39973659)

No one is saying that Vesta *is* a planet *right now* rather, that Vesta is a planetary core capable of acting like a seed and become a planet by clearing its orbit, if only Jupiter wasn't there. So, no, Vesta is no planet, but it's no mere asteroid, that's why they called it a "baby planet"

Pluto wasn't "demoted" from planet to asteroid. It was moved into is category of plutoids because it is not the "only pluto" in our solar system, nor the only pluto in Pluto's orbit.

Re:Pluto? (1)

symbolset (646467) | more than 2 years ago | (#39976565)

I don't know if it's a planet or not and I don't care. I do know that it's a rather valuable hunk of useful stuff, in a useful place and condition. More than enough metals there to be a near-zero-G spacedock.

Vesta's worth nowhere near as much as Ceres. When Dawn gets to 1 Ceres, that's when the gold rush begins. Ceres has more water on it than all the fresh water on Earth, and other volatiles as well. It's a grand fuel depot for exploitation of the asteroid belt.

Considered together they're wealth beyond the dreams of Midas.

As for clearing the orbit it seems to me a relative thing. Aren't there thousands, maybe millions, of Earth-crossing asteroids still - some of them on very similar orbits? I recall reading of one very large one with a "horseshoe" orbit around the sun centered on Earth's exact orbit. Sometimes it's on a slightly inner orbit and races ahead until when it catches up to the Earth from behind. Influenced there by Earth's gravity it shifts to a higher orbit around the sun until it begins gradually falling back. And when in its travels it falls under the Earth's sway again from the fore, it does so just enough to fall into that orbit closer to the sun and race ahead again. Who knows how long this has gone on? If there's one like that, how swept could Earth's orbit be?

Reviewing I find that there are possibly several such [wikipedia.org] for Earth's orbit around the sun that we know of. Other planets large and small have them too. The one I was thinking of, 3753 Cruithne, shouldn't count for various reasons but at 5km wide it's a beast.

Re:Pluto? (1)

jamesh (87723) | more than 2 years ago | (#39974401)

Curse nature for not conforming to our nomenclature!!!

Re:Pluto? (1)

Teancum (67324) | more than 2 years ago | (#39976265)

Curse you nomenclature for not conforming to nature.

Wait a minute... I thought that was called science.... or something like that.

Re:Pluto? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39975639)

Since when does Pluto orbit Earth?...

Re:Pluto? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39976889)

Pluto doesn't orbit the earth, so yes, you are confused, very confused.

Weird analogy (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39973179)

What a weird analogy, I've owned both a vespa and a jupiter and find both are like asteroids.

And it's a Good Thing (tm) (5, Insightful)

Barbara, not Barbie (721478) | more than 2 years ago | (#39973181)

... because otherwise, Vesta would have sucked up all the material there, including a lot that went into Jupiter, and become the equivalent of Jupiter, but closer.

That would have turned Mars into an asteroid belt ... and Earth into an undersized Mars.

And since Venus is just too darn close to the sun to support life ... another lifeless solar system.

"history is written by the victors" (2)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 2 years ago | (#39973547)

it's a cynical quote, because it's not really true: principles actually define winners and losers

but it certainly applies to planet formation

Re:And it's a Good Thing (tm) (4, Interesting)

chebucto (992517) | more than 2 years ago | (#39973595)

Are you sure about that?

My astronomy is rusty, but I seem to recall that the inner planets are rocky because their proximity to the sun meant they were unable to build up the kind of atmosphere the gas giants did: their atmospheres boiled off before they could grow to the mammoth proportions of the gas giants.

Given the distance from the sun to Cerers, would Ceres ever have been able to form into a gas giant?

Anyway, who's to say Jupiter (or at least its moons) are lifeless? :|]

Re:And it's a Good Thing (tm) (5, Informative)

Solandri (704621) | more than 2 years ago | (#39974053)

That was the old theory. The problem with studying the cosmology of star systems is that until recently we only had a sample of one. When they started finding planets orbiting other stars, they tended to be gas giants because of the methods used (orbit perturbations, light falloff due to occultations). But a surprising number of these gas giants orbit closely around their parent star. IIRC one has an orbit whose period is a few Earth-weeks. At this point, I think you can say all bets are off.

Re:And it's a Good Thing (tm) (2)

harperska (1376103) | more than 2 years ago | (#39974939)

"Hot Jupiters" are thought to have formed in an outer orbit, and then migrated inwards, perhaps by being perturbed by another passing star. It is highly unlikely for a gas giant to form that close to a star, but very likely for a planet's orbit to be jostled by something passing by.

Re:And it's a Good Thing (tm) (1)

steelfood (895457) | more than 2 years ago | (#39977295)

Or their orbit could just be unstable. They could be spiraling into their sun with each revolution, but we'd never know, since it'd take too long to actually cause our measurements to change.

But based on these recent observations, the fact that Jupiter hasn't swallowed up all of the inner rock planets in the past 4.5 billion years is fairly unusual..It very well could be that if the asteroid belt had coalesced into a planet (there's certainly enough material to do so), perhaps Jupiter's orbit would be destabilized by the gravity of this intermediate object, and would have eventually started wandering inwards as well.

Re:And it's a Good Thing (tm) (1)

Nyder (754090) | more than 2 years ago | (#39976291)

...

Anyway, who's to say Jupiter (or at least its moons) are lifeless? :|]

God. He owns the copyright on Life and only allows it on Earth.

He fights Satan, the evil anti-copyright hippy with his zombie son.

Anyways, he only created Life 6k years ago, so obviously the science is all wrong.

Re:And it's a Good Thing (tm) (1)

symbolset (646467) | more than 2 years ago | (#39976821)

As Solandri said various theories for organization of planets around a star - terrestrial and gas giant - are plentiful. None of them have much weight given recent extrasolar observations. Ceres would never have formed a gas giant unless it was present so early in the presolar cloud that its gravity attracted a huge fraction of the gases present, and obviously some other mass did that first, and that mass was too late to participate in most of the free gas mass - but early enough to gather up quite a bit. Most likely the core of 1 Ceres is a relic of some cosmic collision that occurred so early that there were still volatiles to be swept up. Perhaps the core of 1 Ceres is a fraction of the remains of a collision between an early body and the seed of a mass that became a gas giant. We have a bias to expect that these terrestrial masses came first, but there's no evidence for that - quite the contrary, we might expect that the gas giants came first and ate the terrestrial materials only as snacks while their real diet was mere molecules of gas in vast quantity.

For all we know when the expanding shell of mass thrown off by the supernova of a Population II star (middling early) collides with leftover gases or the expanding and much-dissipated shell of a population III star (very early) or another population II star, a population I star system like ours is born with lots of flying chunks of iron and vast masses of hydrogen and helium. Perhaps some of this flying iron was born in that catastrophe, or the remnant of some earlier super-earth, but it seems unlikely since large dense masses would likely continue through the cloud with their inertia little dampened. It would be fun to do the models, but I have neither the skill nor the gear. The nature of the question does explain the globular shape of the local stellar formation for population I stars, for obvious reasons.

We think now of supernovas as an uncommon and horrible thing, ephemeral and fragile creatures that we are. But some five or ten billion years ago in our galactic neighborhood they were considerably more common. Without them we'd not have the materials to be what we are.

Of course there is the possibility that some of the super-earths we see around other stars were just gas giants like Jupiter that collected these metal bits with their gravity, only with the lighter gases burned and blasted away by a ferocious star. Perhaps Earth was once covered by a minor gas giant shell only to have it blasted away with Sol's ignition. Certainly in our atmosphere raw hydrogen and helium are swept away every day. We're not likely to learn about that without exploring other nearby stars.

Of the protoplanets 1 Ceres is the most interesting. Its core may have many answers to the nature and evolution of the solar system. NASA's Dawn mission will be there soon, but it's not likely to probe deep enough to find enough of those answers. It is armed though to discover the rich bounty of 1 Ceres that will motivate us to explore it more.

nice try, planetary scientists (3, Funny)

Trepidity (597) | more than 2 years ago | (#39973193)

You think this bone you're throwing to Vesta is going to make us forgive what you did to poor Pluto?

Re:nice try, planetary scientists (1)

LostCluster (625375) | more than 2 years ago | (#39973239)

They made a bad call on Pluto, but they're trying to get it right with Vesta, they must be referee-like.

Eris is larger than Pluto. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39973339)

You think this bone you're throwing to Vesta is going to make us forgive what you did to poor Pluto?

Neither Eris or Pluto have cleared their orbits of debris. Hence neither are planets.

Re:Eris is larger than Pluto. (1)

Teancum (67324) | more than 2 years ago | (#39976285)

And why does clearing an orbit of debris mean anything, and how do that help in describing a planet in another star system?

Re:nice try, planetary scientists (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39973397)

Look, you typical liberal planet-hugger, "baby" Vesta ain't shit, and Pluto wasn't neither.

Re:nice try, planetary scientists (2)

Xtifr (1323) | more than 2 years ago | (#39973527)

Oh piffle. The real mistake was back when they decided to classify poor Ceres as an asteroid. The whole nonsense about Pluto appears to be nothing but fallout from that earlier mistake, compounded by a reluctance to grant Ceres the full planetary status it so richly deserves. Ceres is more like Mercury than Mercury is like Jupiter or Pluto.

The old list you learned which included Pluto but not Ceres was simply arbitrary, wrong, and stupid. The current classification is certainly no worse, and is arguably somewhat better, even though I think it could be greatly improved.

Re:nice try, planetary scientists (1)

Hentes (2461350) | more than 2 years ago | (#39973801)

Ceres couldn't clear its orbit, therefore it's not a planet. It's just another member of the asteroid belt, a collection of rocks that while had the chance to become a planet, didn't become one. Making Ceres or Vesta a planet would make us forget about all the mass that exists in the same orbit: the asteroid belt doesn't contain a planet, the whole belt itself is a failed planet.

Re:nice try, planetary scientists (1)

harperska (1376103) | more than 2 years ago | (#39974653)

I HATE the 'cleared its orbit' definition that the IAU came up with. It is an absolutely meaningless definition. Jupiter, which no one will argue as to whether or not it is a planet, has not cleared out its orbit. There are thousands of objects that share the same orbit as Jupiter around the sun, known as the trojan asteroids. Jupiter, with all its mass, will never clear those objects out of its orbit as they are perfectly stable due to the physics of the Lagrangian points.

The pluto decision was purely a political one, as the IAU couldn't handle the possibility of there being dozens of planets in the solar system for some reason.

Re:nice try, planetary scientists (1)

Teancum (67324) | more than 2 years ago | (#39976427)

What the IAU couldn't handle was promoting the Galilean satellites of Jupiter to the status of planets (along with Titan and Triton and the Moon). If they would have avoided a heliocentric definition for planet, all of those bodies would have been called dwarf planets along with stuff like Pluto.

Yup... dozens of planets (plural dozens). Like this list of objects in the solar system: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Solar_System_objects_by_size [wikipedia.org]

That is 41 objects larger than 350 km in diameter, clearly large enough for hydrostatic equilibrium and stratification of interior resources, and another 48 (give or take... several Kuiper belt objects seem to fit this size and their size is still in dispute) that are over 200 km and thus borderline cases.

I would have to presume the IAU just didn't want to get into the business of demoting Mercury to dwarf planet status as well.

Re:nice try, planetary scientists (1)

Xtifr (1323) | more than 2 years ago | (#39976341)

Ceres couldn't clear its orbit, therefore it's not a planet.

Only if you accept the rather silly requirement that something clear its orbit before being considered a planet. In another system with a lot more debris, it's possible that an Earth-sized planet couldn't clear its orbit, especially if there were interference from nearby super-Jovians keeping things in a state of flux.

It's just another member of the asteroid belt

No it's not. There's a reason Ceres isn't classified as an asteroid. There's a reason it's classified as a dwarf planet. (Though the whole idea that a dwarf planet isn't a planet is nomclature abuse, but that's a separate matter.) Ceres is very much not "just another member". It's a very different sort of object. In fact, the one thing it most closely resembles is Mercury. Which, in turn, is far more similar to Ceres than to most other things called planets (especially the gas giants).

If you somehow thing I'm wrong or evil for thinking any of that, you'll probably be even more horrified to find that I think that Ganymede and Luna should be classified as planets.

Vesta is Phaeton? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39973287)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phaeton_(hypothetical_planet) [wikipedia.org]

Chicken or the egg? Was there formerly a 5th planet or was the 5th not yet fully formed?

Numerous research grant applications to follow.... Got to prepare for corporate mining of the asteroid belt too...

A planet in the making... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39973373)

Does this mean that the mass of Vesta is increasing as it sucks up smaller asteroids in its orbit? I believe that is one of the 'new' criteria for planet formation - that the planet has cleared it's orbit of most debris.

To be a planet you must clear your orbit of debris (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39973383)

Vesta is in the asteroid belt.

Pluto and Eris are KBOs.

Please keep Baby Vesta safe! (3, Funny)

CuteSteveJobs (1343851) | more than 2 years ago | (#39973407)

Please don't tell Neil deGrasse Tyson about this or he will kill baby Vesta safe just like he killed its older sibling Pluto. This man is worse than the Pharaoh!

Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson on killing Pluto: 'All I did was drive the getaway car'
http://www.theverge.com/2012/3/26/2903224/dr-neil-degrasse-tyson-killing-pluto-on-the-verge [theverge.com]

Re:Please keep Baby Vesta safe! (1)

ks*nut (985334) | more than 2 years ago | (#39976441)

Yeah, well I would really like Dr. Tyson to push for something really important to get the United States back on its scientific "feet". How about pushing the adoption of the metric system? Our present system of measurement is keeping us years behind other countries. No more conversion. Just adopt it and get it over with. Ever listen to the statements from NASA, our "science" people on space travel. Everything is miles per hour and feet per second and gallons of fuel. Does anyone else see a problem here? And while we're at it, I'm from Kansas and Pluto should still be a planet.

Re:Please keep Baby Vesta safe! (1)

Teancum (67324) | more than 2 years ago | (#39976731)

The current "imperial" system of measurement does not keep America "years behind other countries". It just is something different, and complaining about the lack of conversion to the metric system is just silly. America was able to industrialize without the metric system, which seems to be something remarkable for some weird reason.

Besides, there are good reasons to have a unit divisible by 12 instead of 10, as dividing something into thirds and quarters is much, much easier in base 12 than base 10. Babylonians used base 60 arithmetic, which is one reason why degrees, seconds, and minutes are still measured with a base 60 arithmetic.

There are flaws and drawbacks to the metric system, even though it does have some good parts as well. In terms of scientific research, I don't know of any major American institution that sticks with imperial units with perhaps the exception of rocket propulsion engineers, who still stick with ISP mesurements in seconds (being pound-seconds of thrust per pound of mass). Guess what... most rocket scientist outside of America report their thrust efficiency in seconds as well.

I just don't see what the worship of the Metric system is all about, and it helps to sometimes be aware that measurement systems are purely arbitrary, where a velocity in furlongs per fortnight is just as valid as meters per second.

Re:Please keep Baby Vesta safe! (1)

lars_stefan_axelsson (236283) | more than 2 years ago | (#39977393)

I don't know of any major American institution that sticks with imperial units with perhaps the exception of rocket propulsion engineers, who still stick with ISP mesurements in seconds (being pound-seconds of thrust per pound of mass). Guess what... most rocket scientist outside of America report their thrust efficiency in seconds as well.

I don't understand your argument. The second is a perfectly valid SI unit. It's a base unit in fact. And you even use the same definition; those rocket scientists use the SI second for specific impulse. (As opposed to one of the other possibilities).

This is a better example of a unit you didn't manage to screw up than one where we show inconsistency, than anything else...

Re:Please keep Baby Vesta safe! (1)

Teancum (67324) | more than 2 years ago | (#39978155)

Specific impulse is not properly defined in seconds... or did you get the "pound-seconds per pound" issue? In SI units, it would be "Newton-seconds per kilogram", which does not reduce to seconds in terms of the units being properly used. The problem here is that a pound is simultaneously a unit of force and a unit of mass, which is one of the reasons why people using imperial measurements typical use a "slug" when trying to perform mass measurements... to keep absurd units like seconds of specific impulse from being reported.

I had sort of presumed that those talking about specific impulse would understand how seconds of impulse was simply not an SI unit of measurement even though I'll agree that the term "second" as a unit of time is properly measured in SI units. The surprising thing is that seconds of specific impulse is reported by most researchers doing rocket research in spite of the fact that it isn't an SI unit.

Re:Please keep Baby Vesta safe! (1)

lars_stefan_axelsson (236283) | more than 2 years ago | (#39978545)

Nope. Pound is not both a unit of weight and a unit of force. The two are as distinct as the Newton and the kg. That you use the same sounding name for both of them doesn't fundamentally alter that fact.

Now, there are two ways of specifying specific impulse, one is to base it on the mass of the fuel, then you end up with a Isp as a velocity. If you use weight, you get a time. In either case the conversion factor is 'g' regardless.

This is *exactly* the same regardless of which system of units you work in. That you happen to have a simpler conversion since you're prone to conflating force and weight (lbf/lbm) doesn't really change this. Incidentally, confounding the two leads to a lot of problems in understanding, since your calculations are prone to giving the same result, but conceptually the wrong unit. Slugs notwithstanding. I haven't met a single american trained engineer in industry that actually used those.

But OK, if you're argument is that this unit isn't officially blessed by the SI. Then sure. But we use lots of units that while they are *based* on SI units, aren't officially blessed (fuel consumption is one straightforward example, l/100km). But who cares? The beauty of the SI system is that if you use it as a base, building your own engineering units becomes easy, straight forward, and converting back and forth for various calculations becomes (in general) simple without lots of convoluted conversion factors. You can think in SI, since you can do calculations and conversion in your head.

P.S. And on the divisibility. Guess why a standard kitchen module is 60cm (really 600mm)... Talk about divisibility

Re:Please keep Baby Vesta safe! (1)

lars_stefan_axelsson (236283) | more than 2 years ago | (#39978553)

Pound is not both a unit of weight and a unit of force

Sorry, typo. Meant "weight/force and mass"...

Re:Please keep Baby Vesta safe! (1)

Teancum (67324) | more than 2 years ago | (#39978981)

The proper SI unit for specific impulse is meters/seconds^3. That isn't an acceleration unit but something else entirely. In terms of why "seconds" is used, it does get to the "pound-seconds per pound".

Yes, it is some hand waving, and it isn't even a proper way to reduce the units, but it is used. Regardless, the "seconds of impulse" are based around pounds of force and mass as measured in pounds (even if a pound isn't properly a unit of mass). If the values were measured with Newtons and kilograms, you would end up with completely different numbers as the reported values in m/s^3. Instead, the "international standard" for reporting these numbers is in "pounds (force)-seconds per pound (mass)", usually shortened to just seconds of specific impulse.

My point is that the numbers being used for comparison between various rocket systems don't even use SI values for measuring this value, even though legitimate ways to measure this can be done using SI units. It was pounds, feet, and gallons that were used as units of measurment to send the astronauts to the Moon, which sort of defeats the notion that somehow sticking to these units of measurement is the reason why America is falling behind in terms of scientific leadership in the world. That is what I'm complaining about.

There may be legitimate reasons to stick with a common set of measurements so everybody is "on the same page" when trying to communicate various ideas, so there is some merit to sticking with something that is common. SI as a measurement system is well established and widely recognized, but there is nothing special about its use in particular, and noble reasons for its use are mostly irrelevant other than pure political reasons. Any appeal to pure logic for why SI is better than any other system is like trying to justify a political position or for that matter more akin to theology than anything else.

Re:Please keep Baby Vesta safe! (1)

lars_stefan_axelsson (236283) | more than 2 years ago | (#39981183)

Any appeal to pure logic for why SI is better than any other system is like trying to justify a political position or for that matter more akin to theology than anything else.

That's the heart of the matter isn't it? And I don't agree. That's a bit like saying that "well, the Japanese seem to do well with their way of writing, so it*s obviously equal in ever way when it comes to performance compared to the alternatives. (Hint; It's worse in many ways). Or, "Well all sufficiently semantically advanced programming languages are Turing complete, and hence it doesn't matter whether we write this is Brainfuck or Haskell. They're equivalent". (No, the similarities when it comes to utility ends with Turing). Or "well it's just a matter of notation anyway, we might as well do arithmetic using roman numerals instead of the Arabic we're using now" (Nope, not by a long shot, even though you can say 4 = IV).

Do you want me to go on? If humans are supposed to use it, shit like this matters. Now, the SI was based on the experience we had had with the previous systems (going back centuries) and their shortcomings, so OF COURSE it's an improvement. It'd be a sorry state of affairs if it wasn't. Is it perfect? Nope, but it's good enough by far.

Now to say that the US is falling behind in STEM because of that, I find a bit rich myself. I see much bigger problems than litres vs. hogsheads. BUT, of course, using backwards notations doesn't help either. It's just one more straw for the camel's back.

Re:Please keep Baby Vesta safe! (1)

steelfood (895457) | more than 2 years ago | (#39977303)

Pluto is Greek.

I don't buy the Jupiter perturbed theory. (0)

larry bagina (561269) | more than 2 years ago | (#39973925)

Vesta has an orbital period of 3.6 years. (Ceres is 4.6 years). Jupiter takes 11.8 years. That means Jupiter has no effect for years ( more than 3.6 or 4.6, respectively) at a time. For comparison, models of the big impact moon formation show the moon coalesced in under than a year.

If it's good for the goose, why isn't it good for the gander?

Re:I don't buy the Jupiter perturbed theory. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39974431)

Your misunderstanding of orbital mechanics is rather hilarious.

So despite years of denial... (1)

jd (1658) | more than 2 years ago | (#39974299)

...the asteroid belt IS a failed planet after all?

If so, then it demonstrates why Real Scientists (not ones that kill cute puppies like Pluto for amusement) are wary of definitive statements.

Yeah Baby... (0)

Gilmoure (18428) | more than 2 years ago | (#39974507)

Yeah!

You, we go out on the town and swing, baby? Yeah!

Planet definition is bunk. (2)

harperska (1376103) | more than 2 years ago | (#39974907)

The whole problem with finding a definition of 'planet' is that stuff in the solar system can either be defined by its composition or its location. Objects with similar composition that look like exactly the same sort of thing when seen in isolation are often found in very different locations. And the IAU decided in its infinite wisdom to use location as the primary means classification rather than composition. Unfortunately, that decision is at odds with both sentimentality (as is seen with the whole Pluto fiasco) and with scientific usefulness. As we study extrasolar planetary systems, it has become clear that objects orbiting stars are very likely to change locations over time. Objects move from higher orbits to lower orbits and vice versa, Objects are captured into orbit by other objects, and objects are ejected from orbit around other objects, etc. So when studying a solar system, classifying objects by where they are in the system is scientifically meaningless as the objects quite possibly did not form in that location, and certainly may not remain in that location for the lifetime of the system's star.

So I propose Harperska's planetary classification system:

Terrestrial dwarf - large enough to attain hydrostatic equilibrium and differentiation. Mantle/crust comprised of rock, with iron core. 6 objects in solar system: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Luna, Mars, Vesta.

Asteroid - terrestrial dwarf like object, not large enough to attain hydrostatic equilibrium.

Ice dwarf - large enough to attain hydrostatic equilibrium and differentiation. Mantle/crust comprised of frozen volatiles (water, methane, ammonia), with rocky core. This class includes Ceres, the moons of the gas and ice giants, and Kuiper belt objects like Pluto and Eris.

Comet - ice dwarf like object, not large enough to attain hydrostatic equilibrium.

Gas Giant - comprised largely of hydrogen and helium. 2 objects in solar system: Jupiter and Saturn.

Ice Giant - comprised largely of volatiles (water, methane, ammonia) with a hydrogen/helium atmosphere. 2 objects in solar system: Neptune and Uranus.

Solar Birth Order (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39976575)

Is this assuming that Jupiter was already formed and thus interrupted Vesta in forming? I never really thought about it but I always kind of thought the solar system formed sort gradually together, coalescing. Was it all forming at once? one by one? or in spurts? Is there is any research into which planet formed first and why? Like I said I have no clue myself, just curious as this post made me wonder.

Back to nine, then? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39976875)

This is really going to screw up the numbering.

Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune would all get bumped up from 5,6,7,8 to 6,7,8,9.

Facebok's next new group (1)

hey_popey (1285712) | more than 2 years ago | (#39977661)

"When I was your age, Vesta was an asteroid"
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