Today marks the thirteenth anniversary of the day in 2006 that the International Astronomical Union (IAU), announced a new definition for the term planet and, at the same time, decreed that Pluto no longer met the criteria for being classified as a planet in our solar system. Pluto Demotion Day, it’s been called since then. A day that, for more than a few, will live in infamy unless and until Pluto is restored to full planetary status.
Here is an article on the topic:
The best sustained discussion that I’ve read of the demotion of Pluto from full planetary status — which pretty much means that it’s the only sustained discussion of the subject that I’ve read — occurs (I believe) in Guy Consolmagno and Paul R. Mueller, Would You Baptize an Extraterrestrial?: . . . and Other Questions from the Astronomers’ In-box at the Vatican Observatory.
Father Mueller, a Jesuit priest, earned degrees in physics, philosophy, theology, and the history and philosophy of science at Boston University and the University of Chicago. Guy Consolmagno is a Jesuit brother who earned undergradduate and master’s degrees in earth and planetary science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and a Ph.D. in planetary science from the University of Arizona.
Brother Consolmagno, who currently serves as Director of the Vatican Observatory and President of the Vatican Observatory Foundation (as, in more popular parlance, the “Vatican Astronomer”), was a member of the committee that downgraded Pluto to the status of a “dwarf planet” or even a “Trans-Neptunian Object,” and he outlines the basic arguments that led the committee to its unpopular decision. I have to confess that I found them more persuasive than I had expected.
Brother Consolmagno was also the very affable keynote speaker at the Interpreter Foundation’s 2016 Science & Mormonism Symposium: Body, Brain, Mind & Spirit, which was held on 12 March 2016 on the Orem, Utah, campus of Utah Valley University. Entitled “Astronomy, God, and the Search for Elegance,” his was an excellent speech, and I commend it to your attention:
And now for some other news from our solar system:
I don’t want to appear provincial, though. So here’s some news from beyond our solar system: