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Space Science

Makemake Becomes the Newest Dwarf Planet 191

Posted by kdawson
from the this-one's-a-kuiper dept.
Kligat writes "The Kuiper belt object formerly known as (136472) 2005 FY9 has been rechristened Makemake and classified as a dwarf planet and plutoid by the International Astronomical Union, according to the United States Geological Survey. The reclassification occurs just a month after the latter category was created. The object was referred to by the team of discoverers by the codename Easterbunny, and the name Makemake comes from the creation deity of Easter Island, in accordance with IAU rules on naming Kuiper belt objects."
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Makemake Becomes the Newest Dwarf Planet

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  • I miss... (Score:5, Funny)

    by sleeping123 (1109587) on Sunday July 13, 2008 @11:59PM (#24177793)
    I miss Pluto.
  • Whatwhat? (Score:5, Funny)

    by exley (221867) on Monday July 14, 2008 @12:01AM (#24177799) Homepage

    $ make dwarf_planet

    make: *** No rule to make target `dwarf_planet'. Stop.

    Alright, well, that doesn't help at all. Maybe this [wikipedia.org]?

  • plutoid... I like it (Score:5, Interesting)

    by religious freak (1005821) on Monday July 14, 2008 @12:02AM (#24177809)
    I've got to say, I think the compromise struck is a pretty good one. Pluto being a planet with similar objects not being a planet was not really scientific.

    Plus, plutoid has a good ring to it.
    • by Ydna (32354) * <andrew AT sweger DOT net> on Monday July 14, 2008 @12:10AM (#24177857) Homepage
      Pluto does not have rings.
    • by kjots (64798) * on Monday July 14, 2008 @12:23AM (#24177913)

      I agree. Even if it was decided to keep Pluto as a 'planet', we would still have to come up with a new name for the eight large objects that orbit our Sun in a manner unlike anything else in the solar system (specifically, Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune).

      There is little room for sentiment in science. Things are what they are, and if it is discovered that something is being called something it shouldn't be, it has to be changed. Some people just don't get that.

      The good news is that in this case, it isn't likely to happen again. Apart from the distinction between terrestrial and gaseous, the definition for planet seems pretty solid (I do expect the term 'exoplanet' to be absorbed into the definition of planet in the long term, though. Either that or we'll be extinct and it won't matter what anything is called anymore :-).

      • by khallow (566160)

        I don't understand the need to sermonize what was a shabby decision here, both from a scientific and from a larger public policy point of view. Here [slashdot.org] is a fairly complete description of my complaint. I don't understand how someone can read that definition and think it is scientific despite the gaping holes both in its definition ("cleared a neighborhood" not specified) and scope (only applies to one star system out of tens of billions in the Milky Way alone). Let us recall that science textbooks are going to

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by khallow (566160)

      I've got to say, I think the compromise struck is a pretty good one. Pluto being a planet with similar objects not being a planet was not really scientific.

      I don't really care whether there are 8 or 150 planets in the Solar System. The current compromise is not scientific. Here are the problems: a) the definition doesn't define a crucial term, b) it doesn't apply to other star systems, and c) any dynamics-based definition of planet cannot extend easily to other star systems (observation is difficult, systems can easily have different dynamics structure).

      • by kjots (64798) * on Monday July 14, 2008 @12:49AM (#24178029)

        The current definition of 'planet' is specifically restricted to describing objects within our solar system. Your latter two points are thus irrelevant and your first does not carry enough weight on it's own to be convincing. Hence your argument is refuted.

        Once we have a better understanding of the dynamics of other star systems, we can think about a more inclusive definition. For now, we shouldn't worry about them because, as you said, observation is difficult and any conclusions we make now are subject to change.

        In our own star system, the only system we can observe directly and thus the only system we can have any real knowledge of, Pluto is not, and never was, a planet. Get over it.

        • by thermian (1267986) on Monday July 14, 2008 @01:37AM (#24178227)

          Our observations of the Solar System and of the bodies orbiting other suns, if we are to be quite strict about it, would lead to the following three classes.

          1: Stars
          2: Gas Giants
          3: Rubble

          • by frankie (91710)
            Not quite. There are four physical categories of solar system object:
            1. stars
            2. gas giants
            3. rocks
            4. snowballs

            Due to hubris and geocentrism, the sentient inhabitants of Sol system's largest rock consider rocks which dominate their orbital neighborhoods to be comparably important as gas giants. Unless a superior gas giant species disputes this claim, I think it's a good enough definition.

          • The problem seems to be the distinction between Big Rubble like the Earth, Venus, and Mars, and Little Rubble, like the asteroids, Pluto, and other Kuiper Belt objects. The offical dividing line is still unclear.

            • by vrmlguy (120854)

              The problem seems to be the distinction between Big Rubble like the Earth, Venus, and Mars, and Little Rubble, like the asteroids, Pluto, and other Kuiper Belt objects. The offical dividing line is still unclear.

              So, we call Earth, Venus, Mecury and Mars "Barneys" and Pluto and the other Kuiper Belt objects "Bam-Bams".

        • by khallow (566160) on Monday July 14, 2008 @03:13AM (#24178539)

          The current definition of 'planet' is specifically restricted to describing objects within our solar system. Your latter two points are thus irrelevant and your first does not carry enough weight on it's own to be convincing. Hence your argument is refuted.

          I'm aware of the way they defined it. You apparently are not.

          The IAU...resolves that planets and other bodies, except satellites, in our Solar System [my emphasis - khallow] be defined into three distinct categories in the following way:

          1. A planet [1] is a celestial body that (a) is in orbit around the Sun, (b) has sufficient mass for its self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces so that it assumes a hydrostatic equilibrium (nearly round) shape, and (c) has cleared the neighbourhood around its orbit.
          2. A "dwarf planet" is a celestial body that (a) is in orbit around the Sun, (b) has sufficient mass for its self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces so that it assumes a hydrostatic equilibrium (nearly round) shape [2], (c) has not cleared the neighbourhood around its orbit, and (d) is not a satellite.
          3. All other objects [3], except satellites, orbiting the Sun shall be referred to collectively as "Small Solar System Bodies".

          This statement says nothing about planets about other star systems. In particular, it doesn't say that there can't be planets in other star systems. And note that the key distinction between "planet" and "dwarf planet" is an undefined characteristic, "cleared the neighborhoor around its orbit". So we have a definition that is ill-defined, works only for 1 star system out of tens of billions, and makes a distinction based on hard to observe dynamics that would only make sense for a portion of these star systems.

          Pluto is not, and never was, a planet. Get over it.

          I see we're revising history now. Pluto was indeed a planet from roughly the time of its discover until it was reclassified in 2006.

          • by digitig (1056110)

            So we have a definition that is ill-defined, works only for 1 star system out of tens of billions, and makes a distinction based on hard to observe dynamics that would only make sense for a portion of these star systems.

            Gosh, we'd better abandon Linnean classification in biology then, because of problems with the definition of species boundaries, because it doesn't specify where extraterrestial species would fit in, and it depends on features of species that would be hard to observe in the case of extraterrestial species.

            Well, either that or you're special pleading, and making demands of planetary classification that the scientific community would not normally make of a classification system.

            • by khallow (566160)
              I disagree. It's like having a classification system for organisms in a patch of lawn in front of the biology department.
          • by mcvos (645701)

            This statement says nothing about planets about other star systems. In particular, it doesn't say that there can't be planets in other star systems. And note that the key distinction between "planet" and "dwarf planet" is an undefined characteristic, "cleared the neighborhoor around its orbit". So we have a definition that is ill-defined, works only for 1 star system out of tens of billions, and makes a distinction based on hard to observe dynamics that would only make sense for a portion of these star systems.

            Not "for a portion of these star systems", but only for ours. Our technology is not far enough advanced to detect small planets and dwarf planets in other solar systems, or to determine whether they cleared their orbits. We know extremely little at all about planetary systems outside our solar system, and for that reason it's silly and meaningless to classify exoplanets according to the same system we use for our solar system. Once we can observe other systems in more detail, that will undoubtedly change, b

            • by khallow (566160)

              Not "for a portion of these star systems", but only for ours. Our technology is not far enough advanced to detect small planets and dwarf planets in other solar systems, or to determine whether they cleared their orbits. We know extremely little at all about planetary systems outside our solar system, and for that reason it's silly and meaningless to classify exoplanets according to the same system we use for our solar system. Once we can observe other systems in more detail, that will undoubtedly change, but for now, I'm afraid you'll have to be patient.

              No, this isn't about patience. This is about making an elaborate definition that only applies to one star system. The International Astronomical Union could have just as well said "The eight planets are: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune." And you know what, they actually did, in a footnote.

              To continue, I see no reason we can't have used computer models of planetary system formation to construct prototype classifications for bodies in other star systems. Even regular observat

              • by mcvos (645701)

                No, this isn't about patience. This is about making an elaborate definition that only applies to one star system.

                But for the time being, that's all we have: one star system.

                The International Astronomical Union could have just as well said "The eight planets are: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune." And you know what, they actually did, in a footnote.

                And they even provided a rationale for why this is the case. So what's the problem?

                To continue, I see no reason we can't have used computer models of planetary system formation to construct prototype classifications for bodies in other star systems. Even regular observation won't be enough to catch all the possible degenerations that can occur.

                But neither are computer models. Our computer models aren't good enough, because we have only a single example that's sufficiently detailed. A model of how our solar system formed may not apply to all other systems. That's why this definition can only be about our solar system.

                • by khallow (566160)

                  But for the time being, that's all we have: one star system.

                  I find it ironic that you councel patience yet we must have a definiton of "planet" right now.

                  And they even provided a rationale for why this is the case. So what's the problem?

                  I already explained this in my original post. The rational is incomplete and only applies to one particular star system.

                  But neither are computer models. Our computer models aren't good enough, because we have only a single example that's sufficiently detailed. A model of how our solar system formed may not apply to all other systems. That's why this definition can only be about our solar system

                  I disagree. We know the basic laws of physics. A computer model doesn't have to be all that good in order to come up with relevant classification criteria.

          • by phulegart (997083)

            Ok. You are correct that Pluto was indeed a planet from the time of it's discovery, until reclassification in 2006. How long is that, roughly? About 76 years. Yes, we discovered Pluto about 78 years ago.

            Now... how long did mankind believe that the Sun revolved around the Earth? I dunno exactly. However, I guarantee it was FAR longer than 78 years.

            Why aren't you complaining about how THAT definition got revised? Why aren't you complaining that we don't believe that the Sun is a flaming chariot being dr

            • by khallow (566160)

              I didn't say what you are claiming I said. Remember when we speak of the meaning of "planets" we speak of definitions not facts. Nothing has changed because we decide now that Pluto is not a planet. It is reasonable to dislike the consequences of what we decide what "planet" means. But to claim (in view of what we know) that the world is flat or the Sun revolves around the Earth is simply in error, because now we're claiming things that aren't supported by facts. We've gone well past definitions to making f

        • No, I will not give over it. It isn't just about Pluto. It is the idea that the IAU has effectively cut off any possibility that additional planets can be discovered since even planets the size of Earth can't clear their orbital zones once you get past 50 AU or so. It is the idea that Jupiter and Earth are the same type of object, but Earth and Eris aren't. So during these three years in which this definition is in place, I will still consider Pluto, Eris, and *shiver* Makemake planets. Unlike some fol
    • I think it's stupid. (Score:4, Interesting)

      by pavon (30274) on Monday July 14, 2008 @01:16AM (#24178135)

      The definition has no scientific usefullness. I have no problem with creating taxonomies purely for local use, but they should at least tell you something about the objects you are classifying. Plutinos, cubiwanos, twotinos, are all usefull categorizations of objects by their orbits in the Kuiper belt, which is likely correlated to their orgins. Dwarf planet is a usefull categorization of things bigger than an asteroid, but smaller than a planet.

      Plutinoid is just stupid - all the dwarf planets except Ceres. Yes, I know that Ceres has different orgins and makeup than the large KBOs, but there is an awful lot of variation between those as well. If we wanted a more specific definition than dwarf planet then we should have waited until we knew more about them so we could make one that has some meaning.

    • Depends. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by jd (1658) <imipak@nOSPam.yahoo.com> on Monday July 14, 2008 @01:56AM (#24178289) Homepage Journal
      Depends on what you mean by similar, for a start. I would not define a planet according to where it happens to be in the solar system, but rather according to composition, structure and mass, as these are things which we know for a fact to distinguish planets from asteroids (eg: asteroids have no core) and planets from comets (eg: comets have multiple cores). I would define a new class for objects for which insufficient data existed to produce a firm classification, but that is it.

      Why does it matter? Well, think back a few days to the recent news on the DNA analysis of birds. Turns out, the definition based on appearances is completely wrong. What was it, kestrels are genetically closer to hummingbirds than any other bird of prey? And the DNA variation between any two lineages within a species has next to zero correspondence to morphology. In other words, looking at something from the outside tells you bugger all. So, naturally, looking at the outside of an object orbiting the sun is the perfect way to tell what it is. It's only a method every other discipline has now ruled to be faulty, after all.

      • by khallow (566160)
        You also have to keep in mind how hard it is to observe something on the inside. Earth is the only planemo (object massive enough to deform into a spherical shape) for which we understand the internal composition pretty well. I believe we have a good idea of a considerable number of planemos that have liquid somewhere in the interior. In addition, whatever definition we come up with in the Solar System has to be applicable to other star systems. Basing it on internal structure (especially when we don't have
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        Slighly OT, but here's a link to an google engEDU talk [google.com] on the subject of taxonomies, by the author of "Everything is Miscellaneous". True believers in "tags" (metadata) may be familiar with some of the ideas. Early (first couple of minutes) on he makes some amusing observations of the Pluto controversy. I didn't completely agree with his view, but his argument is illuminating.

        I can't remember if the video touches on this specifically, but the discussion reminds me of the ascendancy of cladistics [wikipedia.org] in biology

      • by Moraelin (679338) on Monday July 14, 2008 @04:25AM (#24178811) Journal

        Except:

        1. Even for birds, there are classifications which are useful even if they don't reflect the DNA. E.g., a "bird of prey" or "flightless bird" are still useful categories, no matter to whom the individual species are related.

        Basically a category is just a way to say "all these have property X", no matter what X is or in what other categories they also belong. Grouping them by DNA is just _one_ of the many possible groupings. It's useful, no doubt, but it's not the only useful one. It doesn't make all others faulty. No, even the ones based on looking from the outside. Sorry.

        I fail to see why the same can't apply to planets. We already have such categories as being in the right band to have liquid water too, for example. It tells you bugger all about its interior, but it does tell you that the exterior _could_ support Earth-like life. It's a useful category. Even if it's based on where it happens to be.

        2. These have no DNA so to speak. They're chunks of rock and ice.

        And a lot of other stuff is pretty much based on how big they are and where they are. E.g., whether it has one core or no core or multiple cores, is pretty much just an issue of how big it is. If gravity was high enough, it pulled the heavy stuff towards the centre. If not, not.

    • by syousef (465911)

      Pluto being a planet with similar objects not being a planet was not really scientific.

      And a dwarf planet not being a planet is scientific?

      Or the fact that the use of the 'The Sun' in the definition means extra solar planets don't count if the definition is taken literally.

  • But... (Score:4, Funny)

    by doom (14564) <doom@kzsu.stanford.edu> on Monday July 14, 2008 @12:04AM (#24177831) Homepage Journal

    Shouldn't it be named Module::Build?

  • by Kligat (1244968) on Monday July 14, 2008 @12:08AM (#24177841)
    Sorry I didn't include this in the submission, but Michael E. Brown [mikebrownsplanets.com], the leader of the discovery teams of Makemake and Eris, wrote a blog entry about his experience picking a name for the object. It's supposed to be pronounced "maki-maki," Hawaiian-style as he calls it. He likes to name objects discovered around the time his wife was pregnant after fertility gods and goddesses. You might remember "lila," his child's name, being in the URL of the Eris discovery announcement web page.
    • by Baricom (763970) on Monday July 14, 2008 @04:49AM (#24178883)

      It's supposed to be pronounced "maki-maki," Hawaiian-style as he calls it.

      That is definitely not Hawaiian style. (This rant is directed at him, not you.)

      In Hawaiian, and many other languages in the Polynesian family, vowels have one main pronunciation. Es are pronounced with an "ay" sound, so the correct "Hawaiian-style" pronunciation would be closer to maKAY-maKAY. In fact, vowels are generally pronounced longer than English, so an even better transcription might be muhKEH-muhKEH.

      Also, Hawaiian and Rapanui have common roots, but like all languages, they evolved. "Make" means death or defeat in Hawaiian; "makemake" can mean defeat or desire or wish.

    • by Rogerborg (306625) on Monday July 14, 2008 @05:34AM (#24179055) Homepage
      It's pronounced "make - make", the English way, i.e. the way that the Baby Jesus would have said it. You got the part about it being "christened", right?
  • greatgreat

  • by Unfocused (723787)
    For those that understand IPA, the correct pronunciation is: /ma:kima:ki/
  • Rupert (Score:3, Funny)

    by Alioth (221270) <no@spam> on Monday July 14, 2008 @08:12AM (#24180023) Journal

    We need one of these objects to be named 'Rupert' in honour of the Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

  • by sconeu (64226) on Monday July 14, 2008 @09:53AM (#24181355) Homepage Journal

    Don't call them "Dwarf planets" They prefer the term "Gravitationally Challenged"!!!!

  • by clone53421 (1310749) on Monday July 14, 2008 @10:36AM (#24181993) Journal

    The International Asteroid Registry

    "Forget stars... name a cold, hard rock after your ex."

  • Since the term is polynesian rather than anglo, I'm guessing it pronounced maki-maki instead of mayk-mayk. But I'm not sure.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Makemake_(dwarf_planet) [wikipedia.org]

      Makemake,[5] pronounced /maËkimaËki/,[6] formally designated 136472 Makemake, is a very large Kuiper belt object, and one of the two largest among the population in the classical KBO orbits. Initially known as (136472) 2005 FY9, it was discovered on March 31, 2005 by the team led by Michael Brown. Makemake is now officially classified as a dwarf planet and plutoid.[5][7][8]

      Prior to making it public, the discovery team referred to it by the codena

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