So… is there really a NEW PLANET? Nope!

by Jay Reynolds, CAA Observatory Director

So… is there really a new planet? Nope, at least not by the current definition of a planet.**

Thanks to new technology and techniques, the astronomy community has been making interesting finds recently. Our telescopes are becoming more sensitive and allow us to see more & more dimmer and smaller objects. These objects aren’t new, they’ve just been discovered.

The object called Biden (2012 VP113) is big, but does not meet the test for being labeled a planet.

**Definition of a planet
As of 2006, a planet must meet these qualifications:

    1. Must orbit the sun
    2. Must be large enough to be a sphere
    3. Must be free of major gravitational influences of its orbit
    4. Must not revolve around another planet

This newly-discovered object does orbit our Sun, is a sphere, does not revolve around another planet, but its orbit is greatly influenced by many other objects, including Neptune.

Its orbit is 24 degrees off of the planetary plane; Pluto’s is only 17 degrees. This suggests a different developmental history than “planets”

Try to refer to Biden as a DWARF PLANET.

Names:
Why is it called Biden? It’s easier than calling it 2012 VP113. The letters VP remind you of U.S. Vice-President (VP) Biden, 10 years ago they may have referred to it as Cheney or Gore. Biden is a temporary, informal name; the I.A.U. would never allow it to stick. About eight years ago, the dwarf planet Eris was referred to as Xena (The Warrior Princess). I’m sure Lucy Lawless was disappointed when her character was dropped.

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About Webmaster

I am Webmaster for the Cuyahoga Astronomical Association. I also participate in outreach programming in public observing and occasional presentations on behalf of the CAA and a local college.
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