IAU demotes Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune from planetary status

December 9, 2012

Due to a shocking new rule defining what is and what isn’t a planet, the International Astronomical Union voted overwhelmingly to strip Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune of their planetary statuses.

gas giants

Goodbye, “Gas-oids”

Besides orbiting the sun, being spherical or near spherical and “clearing out the neighborhood around its orbit”, the IAU has added this fourth definition of what constitutes a planet:

Must be terrestrial.

Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars would qualify since all have solid surfaces where spacecraft can land and where people could walk (they, of course, would need space suits to walk on the planets outside of earth).

Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune, however, do not qualify.

Underneath their thick cloud covers, both Jupiter and Saturn are believed to be oceans of liquid hydrogen, atop another ocean of metallic liquid hydrogen and then a rocky core. And under the cloudy covers of both Uranus and Neptune are believed to be first an ocean of liquid hydrogen and liquid helium and then, second, an ocean of water and ammonia and, third, a rocky core.

“Even if future spacecraft could be built to withstand the intense atmospheric pressure of the four gas giants, they would still not be able to land on any of the four planets, since each–save for their rocky cores–is an ocean of either hydrogen or both hydrogen and helium,” said the IAU in a statement. “Therefore, because the only thing suitable for the gas giants would be a spacecraft that could convert into a sea-worthy ship or into a submarine, none of the gas giants are terrestrial and, therefore, are not planets.”

Instead, the IAU suggests the four be called “gas-oids” to distinguish them from true planets.

Another note is that since both Jupiter and Neptune “share” their orbit around the sun with “Trojan Asteroids”, technically they do not clear their own paths and, therefore, each is no more a planet that Pluto is.

Or, was.

trojan asteroids

The Trojan Asteroids are the thick pink splotches in Jupiter’s orbit and are the light-blue cluster in Neptune’s orbit, center left on the image.

Nobody on Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus or Neptune could be reached for comment.

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Extraterrestrial aliens tell astronomers: QUIT looking for us!

December 5, 2012


You might remember how, in 1977, both Voyager space probes launched from earth contained the above gold-covered copper plates. The plates contained greetings in various earth languages and served as some sort of time capsule. Assuming someone finds it in the distant future (that likelihood is comparable to Justin Bieber relaunching his career as a rock-and-roll frontman whose career eventually results in enshrinement in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame), those who find it will learn about earth culture and where earth is in the galaxy.

Ostensibly, the records were sent out in an effort to find extraterrestrial life.

And now, they appear to have hit paydirt.

Unfortunately, the response seems to be: “QUIT searching for us!”

Astronomers recently received a message from an extraterrestrial civilization that is based out of the Andromeda Galaxy. (That galaxy is about 2.5 million light years away, far beyond the reaches of where the Voyagers currently are, but the aliens have declined to say how they still found the Voyager probes).

Here is the extraterrestrials’ message to earth:

“People from earth: do not bother responding to this message. This will be a one-time message. Any further response from you will be neither acknowledged nor answered.

“Yes, yes, yes, there is extraterrestrial life in the universe. LOTS of it. Earth is but an uncivilized civilization in comparison. We are well-read, civilized intellectuals while you are all slimy, amoebas.

“For a while we have listened to your transmissions, and what we have seen and heard has convinced us it is not in our best interests to interact with you.

“Your famous musician, Frank Zappa, once said in an intercepted interview that stupidity, NOT hydrogen, is the most abundant substance in the universe. This is absolutely true of earth and is indicative of why we wish no contact with you. We view your stupidity as a virus that would only contaminate us.

 frank zappa

Frank Zappa, 1940-1993

“Still, in honor of Zappa’s astute analysis, we are planning on naming a soon-to-be-formed galaxy in his honor and memory. The stars in that galaxy will bear the names of his children and his songs and the planets will bear the names of his lyrics.

“So, again, leave us alone and QUIT trying to find us.

“Very disrespectfully, an extraterrestrial race from the Andromeda Galaxy.”

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