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Latest International Astronomical Union Stories

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2008-07-21 10:00:00

According to the International Astronomical Union, a dwarf planet beyond Neptune has been given the name Makemake, and has been designated the third plutoid in the solar system. The red, methane-covered Makemake, formerly known as "Easterbunny" or 2005 FY9, is named after the Polynesian god of fertility and creator of humanity. Last month the International Astronomical Union, which names heavenly bodies, created a new rank of sub-planets called plutoids. The other two plutoids are Eris, and...

2008-06-14 13:27:08

Updated 6:35 p.m. ET Pluto's years-long identity crisis just got more complex today. The International Astronomical Union has decided on the term "plutoid" as a name for Pluto and other objects that just two years ago were redefined as "dwarf planets." The surprise decision is unlikely to stem ongoing controversy and confusion, astronomers say. Sidestepping concerns of many astronomers worldwide, the IAU's decision, at a meeting of its Executive Committee in Oslo, comes almost two years...

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2008-06-11 11:20:00

The International Astronomical Union has decided on the term plutoid as a name for dwarf planets like Pluto at a meeting of its Executive Committee in Oslo.Almost two years after the International Astronomical Union (IAU) General Assembly introduced the category of dwarf planets, the IAU, as promised, has decided on a name for transneptunian dwarf planets similar to Pluto. The name plutoid was proposed by the members of the IAU Committee on Small Body Nomenclature (CSBN), accepted by the...

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2008-04-28 09:50:00

The International Astronomical Union (IAU) has approved new names for features on Mercury and agreed on a new theme for fossae on the planet. These newly christened features were discovered from images taken by the MESSENGER spacecraft during its first flyby of Mercury in January.The IAU is the internationally recognized authority for assigning designations to surface features on celestial bodies. "We are very pleased with how quickly the IAU has responded to the need to name many of the...

2006-09-01 15:30:00

By Andy Sullivan WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Hundreds of U.S. scientists have challenged a recent decision by an international astronomy group to strip Pluto of its planetary status with a petition rejecting its definition of what constitutes a planet. The astronomical insurrection shows that debate is likely to continue over the status of the icy rock at the edge of the solar system that was considered the ninth planet until a vote last week by the International Astronomical Union. Petition...

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2006-08-26 04:54:05

If you woke up Thursday morning and sensed something was different about the world around you, you're absolutely right. Pluto is no longer a planet. The International Astronomical Union, wrapping up its meeting in Prague, Czech Republic, has resolved one of the most hotly-debated topics in the cosmos by approving a specific definition that gives our solar system eight planets, instead of the nine most of us grew up memorizing. NASA has already visited all eight planets that retain their...

2006-08-24 13:30:14

By Alan Crosby PRAGUE (Reuters) - Pluto was stripped of its status as a planet on Thursday when astronomers from around the world redefined it as a "dwarf planet," leaving just eight major planets in the solar system. With one vote, toys and models of the solar system became instantly obsolete, forcing teachers and publishers to scramble to update textbooks and lessons used in classrooms for decades. "Pluto is dead," Mike Brown of the California Institute of Technology bluntly told...

2006-08-24 09:53:13

By Alan Crosby PRAGUE (Reuters) - Pluto was stripped of its status as a planet on Thursday when astronomers from around the world redefined it as a "dwarf planet," leaving just eight classical planets in the solar system. Discovered in 1930, Pluto has traditionally been considered the ninth planet, and furthest from the sun, in the solar system. However, the definition of a planet approved after a heated debate among some 2,500 scientists from the International Astronomical Union...

2006-08-22 09:30:00

By Alan Crosby PRAGUE -- In coming up with the definition of a planet, astronomers hoped to bring order to the way we look at solar systems. Instead, they created a big bang of their own. A committee formed by the International Astronomers Union (IAU) has proposed that to be called a planet, a celestial body must be in orbit around a star while not itself being a star. It also must be large enough in mass for its own gravity to pull it into a nearly spherical shape. The new definition -- the...

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2006-08-19 15:05:00

PASADENA, Calif. -- Few planet hunters stand to gain as much as Michael Brown if our solar system balloons to 12 planets under a new definition. He's spotted more than a dozen objects that might qualify as planets. So why is he upset? "When I was a kid, planets were special," he said. "This definition takes the magic out of the solar system." It was Brown's discovery of an icy rock bigger than Pluto that helped lead astronomers to rethink their definition of what a planet is. But Brown...