Archive by category | International Astronomical Union

After the IAU: planets in trouble

Nature’s conference blogs usually finish when the meeting about which they are written winds up. But the wrangling over what defines a planet, the source of the buzz at this year’s general assembly of the International Astronomical Union, is gathering new pace. The meeting is done and I am home, but here’s one more update.  Read more

IAU: Pluto’s friends left nameless

The final part of the planet definition resolution offered astronomers the chance to save Pluto fans from despair. If accepted, resolution 6A would make the planet (oops, of course I mean ‘dwarf’ planet, since Pluto is no longer a planet proper) the first of a new category of objects orbiting at our solar system’s edge.  Read more

IAU: the verdict is…

At last, the vote. Astronomers waived little yellow cards in the air to indicate their support for resolution 5A – that’s the one that defines planets, ‘dwarf’ planets and other solar system bodies. A few people waived their cards to vote the resolution down, a few obstained.  Read more

IAU: giving “planet” a polish

Attendees were asked to amend the planet definition resolution, as printed in the newspaper. “You will need a pen or a pencil,” said Jocelyn Bell Burnell, who is chairing the session. The audience duly rummaged in their bags. The changes were the addition of a few inverted commas for the category of ‘dwarf’ planets and a clarification on the situation of satellites.  Read more

IAU: planet vote approaches

The final opportunity for astronomers to comment on the resolution to define a planet passed quietly. Jocelyn Bell Burnell, a member of the IAU’s resolution committee who chaired one of the earlier meetings (blogged here), fielded a series of gentle questions. I eavesdropped.  Read more

IAU: invasion!

What a madhouse. I was skipping down the stairs of the conference centre on my way to a 10.30am interview (not about planets) when I encountered a charge of scientists led by the esteemed Brian Marsden. “You’re the press,” one of his cohort noticed. “Show us to the press room.”  … Read more

IAU: planet status update

Today’s the day on which astronomers will decide whether or not the world gets a new definition of planet. The final text of the resolution — to be voted on this afternoon at the meeting’s closing ceremony — is posted in today’s edition of the conference newspaper, Nuncio Sidereo III. It is preceded, after a turbulent week of revisions, by the warning: “only minor corrections can be accommodated at this stage”.  Read more