From Medium: “Turns Out Earth May Not Be A Planet”

3.21.17
Michael Tanne

It turns out that Earth is not a planet. Asteroid 2016 H03, first spotted on April 27, 2016, by the Pan-STARRS 1 asteroid survey telescope on Haleakala, Hawaii, is a companion of Earth, too distant to be considered a true satellite.

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Orbit of Earth and Asteroid 2016 H03

“Since 2016 HO3 loops around our planet, but never ventures very far away as we both go around the sun, we refer to it as a quasi-satellite of Earth,” said Paul Chodas, manager of NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object (NEO) Studies at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

Asteroid 2016 H03 is proof that Earth has not cleared the neighborhood around its orbit. Therefore, under the definition of a planet vigorously defended by the IAU since the adoption of Resolution 5A on August 24, 2006, Earth is a ‘dwarf planet’ because it has not cleared its orbit, which is the only criteria of their definition that Pluto fails. (I think we’ll eventually discover that very few of the ‘planets’ have cleared their orbits).

Most of us who were baffled by the IAUs declaration and outraged at the obvious discrimination of Pluto knew there was something wrong, even if we couldn’t put our finger on it — we just ‘knew’ Pluto was a planet, right?

Caltech scientist Mike Brown crowed about how he ‘was responsible for Pluto’s death’ and how important this decision was, because it emphasized the importance and number of ‘dwarf planets’ (huge coincidence: Mike Brown is known for his role in the discovery of the dwarf planet, Eris).

At the time Alan Stern, Kirby Runyon and others pointed out that the decision was unscientific, particularly the ‘orbit clearing’ criteria. Well, the IAU’s tortured logic has now come back to bite them in the plutoid.

Here’s what all of us non-scientists intuitively understood all along: “A planet is defined as an astronomical body that “has not undergone nuclear fusion, and having sufficient self-gravitation to assume a spheroidal shape” — in other words, it’s round and not on fire.

How could the distinguished scientists be so wrong?

Here are the 3 problems:
1. The definition of anything must rely solely on its own properties, or predictable interactions with other things. Alkali metals are shiny, soft metals at STP conditions, and highly reactive because they readily lose their outermost electron to form cations with charge +1. Orbital mechanics are so highly complex, that there’s no way to conclude an body can clear its orbit. How much space is that? what other bodies exert gravitational influence? What if there’s been a collision that produced new substellar bodies? How many years is a planet allotted to clear the orbit again? This definition is highly unscientific by its very construction.

2. What really gets ‘civilians’ upset is when they can tell there’s an agenda. It’s like how teens reach when their parents say something totally illogical and defend it by saying “become I’m your parent and I said so!” The IAU resolution was a process in which 400+ scientists debated and vied to ‘win’ adoption of their favorite definition, as if they were the bishops attending the Council of Nicaea debating the Nicene Creed. Mike Brown, the ‘Bishop of Dwarf Planets’ could declare victory if Pluto was assigned to his diocese. The obvious victim is scientific truth, when everyone in the room has something to win or lose, and the other 9000 members of the IAU weren’t even consulted.

3. Sampling error. We can observe alkali metals in innumerable conditions in nature, in the lab, interacting with thousands of other substances at all different temperatures and pressures. We can even observe their interactions at great distance with mass spectroscopy. This gives us great confidence that our classification is consistent with observed phenomena. However with only 9̶ 8̶ 7 planets to observe, and only under one planetary system, it’s ludicrous to arrive at a definition of planet that requires a predictable interaction with the bodies around it. It’s almost a given that not only will we find our own system doesn’t meet the definition, but since a planet is a planet regardless of what system it’s in (unless the IAU would like to vote against that?) we can’t possibly know that the thousands of extrasolar planets are clearing their orbital paths — meaning it’s a definition which is not only improbable but also untestable.

So Earth itself is now hostage to this ridiculous debate. So “No more funny business, or the hostage gets it!” Will Mike Brown be responsible for the death the Pluto AND Earth? Or will scientists drop the politics, put on their scientific thinking hats, and restore the faith children everywhere have in the scientific process they are taught, and the intuition we all have that Pluto, is in fact, a planet.

See the full article here .

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