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Space Names Roundup

July 4, 2008

Pluto may have lost its status as a planet, but it’s inspired a whole new category for planetoids.


What do you call an ex-planet? I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Ever since scientists decided that Pluto wasn’t a true planet, they’ve been faced with the dilemma, what is it then? Now we know: it’s a plutoid. The International Astronomical Union decided on the new category, which has just two members so far: Pluto and a larger object three times further from the sun called Eris. But astronomers expect to discover more Plutoids out there. As for former planet Pluto, perhaps things aren’t so bad: becoming the name for an entire class of celestial bodies could be considered a promotion.

In other cosmic identification news, a website called Galaxy Zoo is enlisting sharp-eyed citizens in an effort to categorize hundreds of thousands of galaxies. Participants visit the website at get a lesson on galaxy idenification, and then sort through images from the Hubble Space Telescope. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.