August 10, 2011

Rise of the Planets

Three new Dwarf Planets were recently discovered in the outer reaches of our solar system. News like this is simply music to my ears. It doubles the fun of an equally growing list of exoplanets! I love Planets and there's simply no other joy than seeing the list of Planets within our solar system grow more and more. In the coming years Dwarf Planets will become the largest contributor to our local tally of Planets.

But wait! Did I just say Planets? Yes, I consider Dwarf Planets as bona fide Planets. I do not subscribe to the third criterion of the "official" definition that planets must clear their orbit of other objects. I think I'd rather stop at the Hydrostatic Equilibrium part.

I can already hear the shouts and sneer from the interwebz, “You’re wrong! You're so damn wrong!” Yes, I know. I’ve already explored that avenue. And specially after watching this talk, You Have No Idea How Wrong You Are, I can argue no further.

I’m wrong. I’m biased. And I confess, I simply want more Planets in our own star system. Guilty as charged. The more the merrier, I shout it all over the rooftops.

Or maybe I just prefer the Linnaean taxonomy wherein objects are classified into large groups which may then be subdivided further--such that if it was applied to Astronomical objects, Dwarf Planets would still fall into the "Phylum" Planet. But then again, No. Astronomy is not Biology. So that’s that. I'm wrong and leave it all behind for now to move on to the cool part of why I even began writing this post.

What do Dwarf Planets have to do with Exoplanets? Well, there’s growing evidence that smaller planets are more common in the galaxy. At the moment, the findings range only between Jupiter-sized planets and rocky Earth-sized planets (because we haven't even found exoplanets the size of Earth yet!) There are more smaller planets than there are gas giants. As Geoff Marcy says, "There are some Jupiters, there are some Saturns. But there are far more of the smaller and smaller planets going down to about two Earth diameters."

I'm inclined to think that this pattern extends to sub-earth-sized planets all the way down to the smallest gravitationally rounded objects orbiting stars. When you think about it, it makes sense. There are more sand grains than pebbles, more pebbles than boulders. So as the years go by, this fact will be confirmed even within our local star system. More Dwarf Planets will be found, heralding the inevitable rise of the Planets.

You Have No Idea How Wrong You Are
List of Gravitationally Rounded Objects
3 Dwarf Planets Discovered
Smaller Planets More Common


Andrew said...

I agree with you. The distinction between planets and dwarf planets seems somewhat artificial. What's even funnier is that some moons in our own solar system (Titan and Ganymede, for instance) are bigger than one of the undisputed planets (Mercury). As in Return of the Jedi, we might even find habitable moons of giant exoplanets.

Carlos Spartacus said...

Hi! I think more and more accurate and sensible our equipment became, with the natural tecnologycal evolution and miniaturization, more and more dwarf "planets" will be found.
Thanks for keep us updated.
Carlos from Brazil.