Pluto framed by New Horizons’ historic flight through the Pluto system on July 14, 2015.
Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute/Alex Parker

A heady group of space scientists are ringing a bell concerning how to define the word “planet.”

The reminder has been targeted at The International Astronomical Union (IAU), the group that in 2006 voted to demote Pluto from planet status.

Titled, “On the Insensitive Use of the Term “Planet 9” for Objects Beyond Pluto,” the reminder is posted in the July 29th issue of the Planetary Exploration Newsletter.

Far from universally accepted

“We the undersigned wish to remind our colleagues that the IAU planet definition adopted in 2006 has been controversial and is far from universally accepted. Given this, and given the incredible accomplishment of the discovery of Pluto, the harbinger of the solar system’s third zone – the Kuiper Belt – by planetary astronomer Clyde W. Tombaugh in 1930, we the undersigned believe the use of the term “Planet 9” for objects beyond Pluto is insensitive to Professor Tombaugh’s legacy.”

Clyde W. Tombaugh at the door of the Pluto discovery telescope at the Lowell Observatory in Arizona.
Credit: Lowell
Observatory Archives

“We further believe the use of this term should be discontinued in favor of culturally and taxonomically neutral terms for such planets, such as Planet X, Planet Next, or Giant Planet Five.”

Signed by:

Paul Abell

Michael Allison

Nadine Barlow

James Bauer

Gordon Bjoraker

Paul Byrne

Eric Christiansen

Rajani Dhingra

Timothy Dowling

David Dunham

Tony L. Farnham

Harold Geller

Alvero Gonzalez

David Grinspoon

Will Grundy

George Hindman

Kampalayya M. Hiremath

Brian Holler

Stephanie Jarmak

Martin Knapmeyer

Rosaly Lopes

Amy Lovell

Ralph McNutt

Phil Metzger

Sripada Murty

Michael Paul

Kirby Runyon

Ray Russell

John Stansberry

Alan Stern

Mike Summers

Henry Throop

Hal Weaver

Larry Wasserman

Sloane Wiktorowicz

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