How many planets? #PlutoIsAPlanet? #TheMoonIsAPlanet?

Is it time to restore Pluto back to the planet club?

A new effort to restore Pluto to the so-called Planet club is underway.

As reported at

Rather than focusing on “external” factors such as whether a body has cleared its orbit (the portion of the IAU criteria that Pluto failed in 2006), the new geophysical definition instead brings to the forefront the intrinsic properties of the body itself. It takes into account the fact that many of the solar system’s worlds are physically complex and geologically active, from Ceres’ ice volcano to Pluto’s slushy heart.

In essence, rather than focusing on the orbit, this proposed new definition suggests we focus on the object itself. Questions like. Is it round? Is is complex on the surface? Is it active? Unfortunately this approach may suffer the same fate as many others, in that this new definition is too open. It would result in over 100 new ‘planets’ in our solar system alone. Even our Moon would now be a planet. As such, maybe this new definition is doomed to failure.

So, adopt this new approach of Pluto-as-a-planet, at the cost of labeling 100 other objects as planets? Or leave things as they are?


Big Bang Universe origins, in your hand.



For millennia it didn’t matter. Now it plays a key role in your life. Lithium in the element in almost all disposable and rechargeable batteries, including the lithium-ion battery and the lithium iron phosphate battery. No lithium –  no smart phone, no ipad, no laptop.

Lithium always mattered to astronomy however.

Even though the Big Bang was 13.8 billion years ago, scientists have a good understanding of the nuclear reactions that produced the first elements. We can calculate exactly how much of each element and isotope should have been made. When we then compare these predictions with observations, almost everything matches. “The deuterium is bang-on, The helium is looking good. ” says Brian Fields, an astrophysicist at the University of Illinois in the US. “Lithium is the one that’s off. And it is off by a lot. There is three times less lithium than there should be, a discrepancy that has been dubbed “the primordial lithium problem”.

As reported on

But while early universe seems to lack lithium, the current cosmos has a surplus. Astronomers have found too much lithium on the surfaces of young stars, which formed relatively recently, as well as in meteors in the Solar System. There is about four times more lithium than what was supposedly made in the Big Bang, enough in the galaxy to weigh as much as 150 suns.

So, something has created excess lithium and then scattered it across the cosmos, where it eventually became incorporated into the our Solar System and, billions of years later, into the batteries of your mobile phone. The question is what?

Now new research shows solves both problems. And novae, the less famous cousins of supernovae take the credit for letting you read these words.

Big Bang, in your hand.





You can watch the announcement here.
NASA announcement of 7 Earth-like planets

A few weeks after NASA’s big announcement that we have discovered seven Earth-mass planets. As these are only 40 light years away from us, we could conceivably communicate (albeit with a 40-year delivery service). While we’re waiting, lets name them.


People are so excited, in fact, that they’re not satisfied with sticking to their scientific names, which run the standard TRAPPIST-1b to TRAPPIST-1h. Naturally, that won’t cut it for the creative types of Twitter—or for NASA, which tweeted out the naming challenge on Friday. The hashtag #7namesfor7newplanets is quickly accumulating quite a collection of suggestions for these alternate homelands, from the Greek versions of our own solar system’s Roman planetary nomenclature to referencing Star Wars, Snow White’s dwarves, popular characters in TV and literature, and more.

You can tweet your names to NASA using the hashtag #7namesfor7newplanets

Comment on this story by leaving your 7namesfor7newplanets below.