Pluto fans will not be mollified by this, but the IAU has announced a new class of sidus (Latin, celestial body) that will include the “former” ninth planet and its slightly bigger rival, Eris. Nancy Atkinson at Universe Today reports.
Plutoid? I don’t think it has a good ring, but it would be a good Scrabble bingo for a collection of letters without a, e, or s.
Remember the New Horizons mission is a bit past the one-quarter mark on its way to Pluto. Sunday it became just the third human space probe to pass beyond the orbit of Saturn. No imaging of the ringed planet though; NH is in “hibernation” for the remaining years it will take to catch up with Pluto. Saturn is also about 1.4 billion miles behind the orbit crossing point.
My daughter did a science report last year on Pluto. Her class did discuss the controversy over Pluto’s standing as a planet. But her teacher was unaware of the 2005 discovery of the second and third moons, Nix and Hydra.
I wonder if funding for this mission would have been more difficult had Pluto been “demoted” a decade or so earlier.