Saving Pluto: The fightback begins

PARIS, Sept 1, 2006 (AFP) – Only a week after Pluto was stripped of its status as a full-fledged planet of the Solar System, rebel astronomers have launched a campaign to have it restored in pomp and glory. A petition already signed by more than 300 professional researchers is attacking the International Astronomical Union (IAU) decision to expel Pluto from the Solar System’s A-list and doom it to the status of “dwarf planet”.

“We as planetary scientists and astronomers do not agree with the IAU’s definition of a planet, nor will we use it. A better definition is needed,” says the protest, placed on the Web at (http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/planetprotest).

The petition organiser, Mark Sykes, who is director of the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Arizona, said the IAU definition of a planet “does not meet fundamental scientific standards and should be set aside.”

“A more open process, involving a broader cross-section of the community engaged in planetary studies of our own Solar System and others should be undertaken,” Sykes said.

The British magazine New Scientist said on its website Friday that the rebels intend to stage a conference next year to fix the definition of a planet.<