August 16, 2006
What you learned in elementary school about our solar system may make you need to go back to class. Astronomers want to add three more planet to our solar system.
"Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars," spouts one community member.
"Saturn, Pluto, Uranus, uh..." continued Jerry Houchens.
It is hard enough for most people to name all nine planets in our solar systems, but now astronomers want to add three more planets.
The new planets would consist of the farthest known object in the solar system, which is nicknamed Xena, Pluto's largest moon called Charon, and the asteroid Ceres. But what makes these objects in our solar system planets?
"Right now there is no definition of a planet," said Ken Seidelmann, a University of Virginia astronomy researcher.
Astronomers from all over the world are meeting to collectively come up with a universal definition of a planet.
"They propose to define a planet as being a celestial body that has enough gravity that it becomes round in shape, it's in orbit around a star and it itself is neither a star nor a satellite," said Seidelmann.
If the three planets become part of the solar systems new formula classrooms everywhere will have to make changes. Science textbooks will have to be rewritten.
"Who knows, maybe in 10 or 20 more years we'll find out more information and more planets are out there," said Keith Cooper.
That may happen sooner than you'd think. Astronomers said if the proposal passes there are at least a dozen other potential planets just waiting in space.
The International Astronomical Union is expected to make a final decision on the definition of a planet on Aug. 24