Conflict in the cosmos

Dissent has been stifled, critics say. Competing views are ignored. And rogue politicians are making their own claims in direct contradiction of the official view.

No, we’re not talking about the national dispute on health care reform. This is a larger issue, involving the entire solar system.

Three years ago this week, the International Astronomical Union decreed that Pluto was not actually a planet, but a dwarf planet. Many scientists and friends of Pluto have been challenging the official view ever since.

But, they say they have been prevented from raising questions about Pluto at IAU meetings since 2006. Their claims that the IAU’s definition of a planet needs updating have fallen on deaf ears. And this has prompted politicians to step in, such as those in Illinois, where Pluto’s discoverer was born. The Illinois Senate has decreed that Pluto is officially a planet when it appears in the skies over that state.

But the IAU has not relented. And cries of “Power to Pluto!” have somehow failed to mobilize the masses.


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