Reaction to the lecture: Dr. Michael Brown’s illuminating lecture on new explorations in the outer solar system has really captured my imagination. His interesting and humor-filled account of the discovery of ‘Eris’ – a planet-like object orbiting the sun in an extremely elliptical pattern – has been a pleasure to listen to…
On the other hand, its placement within the Kyper belt makes it part of other debris floating in this space. Its long distance away from Sun and the estimated 560 year orbiting time, also demarcates it from the eight well-established planets. Fascinated I was with Dr. Brown’s free-flowing narrative of the events in the lead-up to the eventual discovery, I was also impressed by his mastery of scientific technique and methodology. The way he explained how digital cameras and high-power telescope were used for the project was quite lucid. Toward the end of the lecture, Dr. Brown expressed his displeasure about the tendency among the community of astronomers to give importance to precise definitions of what a planet is. As per the newly coined definition of a planet, both Eris and Pluto do not qualify, thereby leaving the number of recognized solar planets to be eight (stopping with Neptune). Upon hearing this decision to drop Pluto and Eris from the class of planets, I was a tad disappointed. But as Dr. Brown explains at length, such rigid formalizations go against the spirit of astronomy and cosmology. I agree with his view that it is the concept and description which matters, not narrow definitions. Lecture Notes: Lecture organized by Astronomical society - Dr. ...
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