Caltech Professor Who 'Killed' Pluto Releases Book Today | KCET
Caltech Professor Who 'Killed' Pluto Releases Book Today
Brown, a planetary astronomy professor at Caltech, discovered Eris (first called Xena) in 2005 shaking up the scientific community. "No one had systematically looked across the sky for a new planet since the 1930s, when Pluto itself was found, and even though astronomers knew of almost five hundred bodies in the Kuiper belt, the searches had been, of necessity, piecemeal, and no one had yet mounted a careful search like the one that had uncovered Pluto," he wrote in his fun and humorously geeky memoir How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had it Coming, which was released today. "Now seventy years after the discovery of Pluto, telescopes were bigger and better, computers made searches vastly more powerful, and astronomers simply knew more about what they were looking for. How could it be that if someone went and looked again for a new planet they wouldn't find something that had been just beyond the reach of the telescopes in the 1930s? There had to be a tenth planet."
But when Brown discovered Eris, thanks to work performed on the Hale Telescope at the Palomar Observatory in San Diego County, it threw a simple, but bewildering question out there: "What is a planet?"
In 2006 the International Astronomical Union made a decision, and it was that Eris was not a planet, which meant that similar-in-size, but less dense, Pluto was also not a planet. As Brown explained sitting in his Pasadena office last week, "if you took away a planet, the solar system would be a very different place." That is to say, with or without Pluto, the solar system would not dramatically change.
But for those who grew up knowing there were nine planets in our solar system, the deletion of Pluto may have been shattering and disputable news. For Brown, however--and perhaps much to his chagrin--facts are facts. "That's not controversy, that's just data."
If watching birds just isn’t enough for you — and you’d rather join their ranks up there in the sky — here are five of the most exciting ways to get airborne and pretend for a while that you may actually have wings.
We may not have elected a woman president in 2016, but more and more women are gracing the podium and the stage in classical opera. Here are a few stellar examples and what obstacles they faced to get where they are.