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Planet X

Astronomers think they have finally discovered a tenth planet orbiting far out in our solar system, and I couldn't be less enthused.

We have been looking to the stars for countless millennia, first noticing the planets in our own system over 5 thousand years ago when the Sumerians saw Mercury shining in the night sky. The Greeks and Romans named the planets for their gods, bestowing upon them personalities and moods.

Later, when Galileo and his contemporaries turned their telescopes to the sky they discovered yet more planets, and the satellites that orbit them. The 18th and 19th centuries found the distant Uranus and Neptune, and the early 20th found tiny Pluto.

All of these discoveries brought with them a sense of excitement, a sense of achievement. Our solar system grew before our eyes as new planets and satellites appeared.

Today, however, we sweep the skies with huge radio telescopes that bear little resemblance to anything Galileo ever used. In the past half century we have found dozens more moons orbiting the planets, with more coming all the time.

Meanwhile, astronomers have searched for the fabled Planet X. Candidates have been put forth and rejected. Definitions have been argued to the point that we are unsure if even Pluto is a planet in the true sense of the word. Our view of the solar system has been muddied.

And now we think that we have finally found Planet X, and we wait for the inevitable bitter disputes and recriminations about whether it qualifies as a true planet. Where's the wonder? Where's the romance? Where's the sense of discovery, the sense that we're pushing back the boundaries of science? We already know there are hundreds of large objects out in the Kuiper Belt that could qualify as planets, floating in massive orbits around the distant Sun. Claiming that any of these are comparable to our 9 recognised planets sounds like desperate astronomers are trying to put their name on the map before it's too late. If they want to have a mid-life crisis, what's wrong with a convertible and a young blonde?

Our 9 planets lend the night sky a sense of wonder that shouldn't be played with. To reduce them to mere criteria is to steal the magic from them.

Leave me my 9 planets and I'll be happy.

Keith Taylor at Sortapundit


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