Author Topic: New Horizons updates  (Read 141776 times)

Offline jacqmans

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New Horizons updates
« on: 09/06/2006 10:49 PM »
http://pluto.jhuapl.edu/overview/piPerspectives/piPerspective_current.php

The PI's Perspective
Unabashedly Onward to the Ninth Planet
Alan Stern
September 6, 2006

New Horizons continues on course and in good health. In a couple of
weeks, I'll update you on a wide range of mission news items. But I
want to devote this "PI Perspective" to a different topic: Pluto's
planethood.

Last month, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) held its first
general assembly since 2003. The meeting was in Prague, and about a
quarter of the IAU's 10,000 members attended. At the end of the
meeting, on Aug. 24, a session was held to vote on proposals to define the word
"planet." Just over 400 astronomers attended that session and voted.
Although I am an IAU member, I could not attend the meeting because my
oldest daughter was starting her freshman year of college during the
week of Aug. 20 back in the States.

The discovery of large numbers of dwarf planets orbiting far from the
Sun may be the most exciting and revolutionary discovery in
understanding the architecture and content of our home planetary system
since it was realized that the Sun is at the solar system's center.
(Credit: NASA, ESA, and A. Feild [STScI])

The now widely known result of the final IAU session was a planet
definition
<http://www.iau2006.org/mirror/www.iau.org/iau0603/index.html> that has
created a pubic and professional uproar unlike anything I can ever
remember resulting from IAU resolutions (after all, they are usually
about dry subjects like how to designate comets or the utility of leap
seconds).

The IAU's planet definition ejects Pluto and the other dwarf planets of
the solar system from the list of worlds that the IAU considers to be
planets - this despite the IAU confusingly adopting the term "dwarf
planet" for these worlds. Linguists, scientists and the lay public have
barraged the media and the IAU with complaints about numerous aspects
of
the IAU planet definition. I have been involved in the debate. My
conclusion is that the IAU definition is not only unworkable and
unteachable, but so scientifically flawed and internally contradictory
that it cannot be strongly defended against claims of scientific
sloppiness, "ir-rigor," and cogent classification.

The New Horizons project, like a growing number of the public, and many
hundreds if now thousands of professional research astronomers and
planetary scientists, will not recognize the IAU's planet definition
resolution of Aug. 24, 2006.

As the leader of New Horizons, I believe this is the right course for
us
to take, for a number of reasons. One is that the IAU definition is too
controversial. Another is that it is losing, rather than gaining,
support, and is likely to be largely irrelevant in the long term. A
third is, despite the fact that the IAU has put its reputation behind
such words, we should not support a technically and linguistically
flawed planet definition: doing so would only further the damage to
astronomy already done by this definition.

So on this Web site and in documents, discussions and other aspects of
the New Horizons mission, we will continue to refer to Pluto as the
ninth planet. I think most of you will agree with that decision and
cheer us on.

I'll close this PI Perspective now with a very brief editorial
statement
on this matter: One of the aspects of science that is most exciting to
me personally is its adaptability to new facts, even if they dictate
paradigm shifts that dethrone comfortable old perceptions. The dawning
realization that our solar system contains vast numbers of dwarf
planets, which outnumber their larger cousins like the four terrestrial
planets and the four giant planets, is a dramatic demonstration of just
such a paradigm-shifting discovery.

Some IAU astronomers are challenged by the implications of this recent
realization, which portends that the Earth is more a misfit object in
the solar system than is Pluto, and that dwarf planets, like dwarf
stars
and dwarf galaxies, are the most representative members of their
astronomical genus.

Some other IAU astronomers are challenged by the notion that the list
of
planets, like the lists of stars, states, rivers, galaxies and mountain
ranges, will be too long to easily memorize.

I'm not bothered by either of these concerns, but I am disappointed to
find scientists afraid of changes in dogma when they are presented with
new facts. Of course, some of my colleagues would say I haven't
adjusted
to the fact that Pluto and other dwarf worlds of the deep outer solar
system orbit in a swarm, making them something else other than a
planet.
Well, to my mind, planets (like stars and galaxies, I note) are what
they are, independent of what they orbit near. As I've said before in
print, were location and context valid in biology the way that some
want
it to matter in planet definitions, a cowboy would become a cow when he
herds his cattle.

What is not controversial is that the subject of planet definition
remains one of debate. Textbooks and teachers are going to have to
recognize that the astronomical community is still adjusting to new
facts and no final consensus is yet available.

As I have said to the daughter we put in college last week many times,
as you grow up, you realize more and more that life isn't all black and
white, but endless shades of gray; it's complicated, and there's no
getting around the fact that you just have to get over the untidiness
of
the real world and move on.

I believe that planetary science is just now grappling with just such a
realization that our tidier youth, before the discovery of extra-solar
planets and Kuiper Belt dwarfs, never belied.

If you want to read more about my own thoughts on planet definition and
the dawning realization of the dominance of dwarf planets, just check
out an article I wrote last year:
http://www.thespacereview.com/article/450/1.

That's all for now; so until next time, keep exploring!
« Last Edit: 07/12/2015 08:10 PM by Chris Bergin »

Offline Mark Dave

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Re: New Horizons update
« Reply #1 on: 09/07/2006 12:57 AM »
Very Cool and well said about this subject. Yeah, the IAU doesn't seem a good source to get information from given this latest statemtnt by them. Also as they can't make up their minds, I wouldn't trust them either.


Offline edkyle99

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Re: New Horizons update
« Reply #2 on: 09/07/2006 01:37 AM »
O.K.  Let me get this straight.  If the New Horizons PI says that he rejects the IAU definition of "planet", does this mean that NASA* is in agreement that Pluto is still the "ninth planet"?  

I can't believe that one of the most scientifically-oriented arms of the U.S. government would all but succeed from the world of international astronomy to cook up its own definition of the solar system.  Will the U.S. now invent its own new names for the "planets", etc.?

Disappointing.    

 - Ed Kyle

* NASA, the National Air and Space Administration of the United States of America.

Offline rumble

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Re: New Horizons update
« Reply #3 on: 09/07/2006 01:51 AM »
So because a group has the label "international" in their name says their decision shouldn't be questioned?  Why isn't this as simple as saying that Pluto is "Grandfathered" in?

The whole "is it or isn't it" argument seems like a roomfull of people with too much spare time, sitting around cooking up a new description for Pluto.  Pluto is the 9th planet.  Easy.

I understand the need to come up with some sort of coherent definition of what a planet is, or eventually every rock or gas ball with its primary orbit being about the sun will be called a planet.

But DANG...  Pluto is a planet if for no other reason than that's what we've been calling it for years.  I'm ok if it gets an asterisk by its name.

Offline Jim

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Re: New Horizons update
« Reply #4 on: 09/07/2006 01:59 AM »
He is only "a" PI for "a" mission.  He doesn't dictate policy.  He was only expressing his views.  Official NASA press releases could be different

Offline edkyle99

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Re: New Horizons update
« Reply #5 on: 09/07/2006 02:00 AM »
The International Astronomical Union (IAU), which was founded in 1919 (40 years before NASA, BTW), "serves as the internationally recognized authority for assigning designations to celestial bodies and any surface features on them".

 - Ed Kyle

Offline edkyle99

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Re: New Horizons update
« Reply #6 on: 09/07/2006 02:02 AM »
Well, he seems to be speaking for the entire project, not just for himself, when he writes:

"The New Horizons project, like a growing number of the public, and many hundreds if now thousands of professional research astronomers and planetary scientists, will not recognize the IAU's planet definition resolution of Aug. 24, 2006."

 - Ed Kyle

Offline rdale

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Re: New Horizons update
« Reply #7 on: 09/07/2006 02:13 AM »
I'm not sure I understand... Are you saying he is NOT allowed to have an opinion on the matter because he works for NASA?

You might check any space-related website, he is not the only one questioning the IAU decision.

Offline Jim

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Re: New Horizons update
« Reply #8 on: 09/07/2006 02:18 AM »
Quote
edkyle99 - 6/9/2006  9:49 PM

Well, he seems to be speaking for the entire project, not just for himself, when he writes:

"The New Horizons project, like a growing number of the public, and many hundreds if now thousands of professional research astronomers and planetary scientists, will not recognize the IAU's planet definition resolution of Aug. 24, 2006."

 - Ed Kyle

He may speak as a project lead but not as a NASA mission lead

Offline Norm Hartnett

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Re: New Horizons update
« Reply #9 on: 09/07/2006 02:56 AM »
I like this definition "the four terrestrial planets and the four giant planets" and the four minor planets Pluto, Charon, Ceres, and Vesta.

Oh, yeah, and all those outer dwarfs.  :)

Easy to teach too.
“You can’t take a traditional approach and expect anything but the traditional results, which has been broken budgets and not fielding any flight hardware.” Mike Gold - Apollo, STS, CxP; those that don't learn from history are condemned to repeat it: SLS.

Offline rumble

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Re: New Horizons update
« Reply #10 on: 09/07/2006 04:06 AM »
Quote
edkyle99 - 6/9/2006  8:47 PM

The International Astronomical Union (IAU), which was founded in 1919 (40 years before NASA, BTW), "serves as the internationally recognized authority for assigning designations to celestial bodies and any surface features on them".

 - Ed Kyle
So who first tagged Pluto as a planet?

Offline edkyle99

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Re: New Horizons update
« Reply #11 on: 09/07/2006 04:34 AM »
Quote
rdale - 6/9/2006  9:00 PM

I'm not sure I understand... Are you saying he is NOT allowed to have an opinion on the matter because he works for NASA?

You might check any space-related website, he is not the only one questioning the IAU decision.

He has a right to express his opinion as the Executive Director of the Department of Space Studies of the Southwest Research Institute, and even as the contracted Principal Investigator of the Pluto New Horizons project, but I question whether he should state that "The New Horizons *project* .... will not recognize the IAU's planet definition resolution of Aug. 24, 2006".  Is it *his* right to speak in this way for the entire project.  Isn't it NASA's project?  

As for the IAU's decision, it *is* the internationally-recognized definition of "planet" whether Alan Stern likes it or not.    According to the IAU, "The eight planets are: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune".  

Period.

 - Ed Kyle

Offline rdale

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Re: New Horizons update
« Reply #12 on: 09/07/2006 04:40 AM »
"Is it *his* right to speak in this way for the entire project."

I'm going to go out on a limb and say: All of the NH project members consider Pluto a planet.

I'm going to go even further out and say: Nobody in the 'real world' cares what the NH project or its leader think about anything in life. Only us space-nerds even know what NH is, let alone read status reports on it.

"As for the IAU's decision"

I'd suggest perusing some space websites, it's clear that the IAU decision is far from finished.

 - Rob

Offline edkyle99

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Re: New Horizons update
« Reply #13 on: 09/07/2006 04:59 AM »
Quote
rdale - 6/9/2006  11:27 PM

I'd suggest perusing some space websites, it's clear that the IAU decision is far from finished.

 - Rob


Like this one from NASA?  It includes this FAQ gem.

"Q. Is Pluto a planet?
A. No ...."

http://nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/planetary/planetaryfaq.html#Pluto

 - Ed Kyle

Offline rdale

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Re: New Horizons update
« Reply #14 on: 09/07/2006 11:35 AM »
"Like this one from NASA?"

No, I'm saying ones where people discuss things. Like a forum. Kind of like this website. But focused on astrononomy. Shouldn't be too hard for you to find one. And then you'll know what we are all talking about.

Offline Spiff

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Re: New Horizons update
« Reply #15 on: 09/07/2006 12:56 PM »
I always consider space to be the FIRST frontier.

Offline edkyle99

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Re: New Horizons update
« Reply #16 on: 09/07/2006 04:43 PM »
Quote
rdale - 7/9/2006  6:22 AM

"Like this one from NASA?"

No, I'm saying ones where people discuss things. Like a forum. Kind of like this website. But focused on astrononomy. Shouldn't be too hard for you to find one. And then you'll know what we are all talking about.

I know exactly what you, the general public, every populist armchair astronomer, and lots of other folks are talking about.  I also know that it is just talk that will not result in any near-term changes, and may not result in any changes.  The next IAU general assembly is in 2009.  Until then, at least, there are eight planets (except within the halls of the Pluto New Horizons project offices).  That gives everyone three years to accept the change.  I doubt very much that the IAU will change its mind in 2009, other than perhaps to tweak the resolution wording.  

 - Ed Kyle

Offline rdale

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Re: New Horizons update
« Reply #17 on: 09/07/2006 04:53 PM »
"Until then, at least, there are eight planets (except within the halls of the Pluto New Horizons project offices)."

Again - close your eyes and cover your ears and you can stick to the theory that only the NH PI feels this way. I think you'll be very surprised when we have 9 planets before 2008 even...

Offline dmc6960

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Re: New Horizons update
« Reply #18 on: 09/07/2006 06:57 PM »
In the September 1st update where the first LORRI picture was released, it said that it was going to be taking its first photographs of Jupiter on the 4th of September.  Well its now the 7th and no photo (at least public) yet.  Any ideas if it was ever taken, simply not released, or not interesting enough to release (perhaps still to far away to be more than a dot or small circle?)
-Jim

Offline Wisi

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Re: New Horizons update
« Reply #19 on: 10/09/2006 08:47 PM »
Images are now public (have been already for a while now...) Images taken September 4, released September 26.  In my eyes not too spectacular images, but the probe is still pretty far away from the planet. According to http://pluto.jhuapl.edu/news_center/news/092606.html scientist are satisfied with the LORRI-images.

Bye the way, today it's 3200 days until pluto closest approach!

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