The Phoenix

Thursday, August 04, 2005

My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nine...X-rays?

This mnemonic device is one of the most well known to school children in the country. We learned this little saying in science class in order to help us remember the nine planets in the solar system...

Mercury,Venus,Earth,Mars,Jupiter,Saturn,Uranus,Neptune, and Pluto.

But now, scientists are wanting to strip Pluto it's planet designation with the discovery of a new planet 2003-UB313, or "Xena" as the astronomers have casually been referring to this new object.

Pluto is a tiny icy ball, even smaller than our moon. It was discovered in 1930, and scientists have always been weary of calling it a bonafide planet. This raises an important question: what exactly constitutes something being deemed a planet?

If it's a case of some object that orbits the sun, then there are hundreds of planets in our solar system. There are a plethora of chunks of ice and rock in the outer edge that revolve around our sun.

"Xena" is larger than Pluto, and indeed orbits around the sun - although the orbit is inclined 45 degrees. This strange angle is why no one discovered it before, no one was looking there. It is visible with large telescopes and a map; it's in the eastern sky in the constellation Cetus.

As the debate rages Pluto a planet? Is Xena a planet? What about the other objects found beyond Neptune then? Will children have to remember the names of another 10 or so planets?...the big question for me is...WHY NAME A PLANET XENA?

When Dr. Brown, the astronomer that discovered the planet back in 2003, was asked why they named it Xena, he replied that, "we've always wanted to name something Xena."

Not good enough, my dear professor. Naming a planet after a television Greek warrior princess just doesn't cut it. The planets in our system are named after Roman Gods like Jupiter and Mars. Let's stick to something cool like that. Maybe Vesta, Maia, or even Ceres.

But Xena? No thanks. Plus, it messes up the mneumonic device...hard to come up with a good word that begins with "X" that makes sense. My very educated mother just served us nine...x-rays? x-acto knives? xylophones? xanax?

If the nutty professor is stuck on naming this new planet after a television about naming it planet....

His orbit is off kilter too.


Anonymous Xanadu said...

I read that the planet might be called "Lia" after Dr. Brown's infant daughter...just an FYI - great blog!

8/05/2005 9:55 PM  
Anonymous The Phoenix said...

I like "Lia" much better than "Xena." How about adding a little more royalty to it by naming it "Princess Lia?"

8/10/2005 4:10 PM  

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