Chabot Space and Science Center to mourn Pluto
By Brigid Gaffikin, Bay City News Service
August 26, 2006
Once considered the smallest and most distant planet in the
solar system, Pluto is officially no longer a planet and the Chabot
Space and Science Center in Oakland has decided to mark the change
with a series of activities this weekend.
The switch came about Thursday, when at the general assembly
of the International Astronomical Union (IAU) in Prague, Czech
Republic, astronomers agreed upon a new definition of planet --
and decided that Pluto didn't make the cut.
A planet, the organization decided, is a celestial body that
orbits the sun, has enough mass for its own gravity to render
it more or less spherical, and has cleared the neighborhood around
it of celestial debris.
Judyth Collin, a spokeswoman for the Chabot Space and Science
Center, said staff have been talking to visitors about the change.
"There's sadness around it," she said.
But Pluto isn't left completely out in the cold, as the IAU also
decided to usher in a new category of extraterrestrial objects,
"dwarf planets," that includes Pluto, Ceres and a third
dwarf planet, 2003 UB313, known informally as Xena.
More dwarf planets are expected to be announced in the coming
months and years, according to the IAU.
The activities at the space and science center this weekend include
a "new solar system mnemonic" contest and the opportunity
to look at a before-and-after model of the solar system and to
write comments in a Pluto memorial book, according to center spokeswoman
The activities will take place from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday
and Sunday in the rotunda of the Chabot Space and Science Center,
at 10000 Skyline Blvd. in Oakland. The center is open Saturday
from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
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