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Pluto Downgraded
Pluto Downgraded
24 Aug 2006
(Source: International Astronomical Union)

The first half of the Closing Ceremony of the 2006 International Astronomical Union (IAU) General Assembly has just concluded. The results of the Resolution votes are outlined here.

It is official: The 26th General Assembly for the International Astronomical Union was an astounding success! More than 2500 astronomers participated in six Symposia, 17 Joint Discussions, seven Special Sessions and four Special Sessions. New science results were vigorously discussed, new international collaborations were initiated, plans for future facilities put forward and much more.

In addition to all the exciting astronomy discussed at the General Assembly, six IAU Resolutions were also passed at the Closing Ceremony of the General Assembly:

1. Resolution 1 for GA-XXVI : "Precession Theory and Definition of the Ecliptic" 2. Resolution 2 for GA-XXVI: "Supplement to the IAU 2000 Resolutions on reference systems" 3. Resolution 3 for GA-XXVI: "Re-definition of Barycentric Dynamical Time, TDB" 4. Resolution 4 for GA-XXVI: "Endorsement of the Washington Charter for Communicating Astronomy with the Public" 5. Resolution 5A: "Definition of 'planet' " 6. Resolution 6A: "Definition of Pluto-class objects"

The IAU members gathered at the 2006 General Assembly agreed that a "planet" is defined as a celestial body that (a) is in orbit around the Sun, (b) has sufficient mass for its self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces so that it assumes a hydrostatic equilibrium (nearly round) shape, and (c) has cleared the neighbourhood around its orbit.

This means that the Solar System consists of eight "planets" Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. A new distinct class of objects called "dwarf planets" was also decided. It was agreed that "planets" and "dwarf planets" are two distinct classes of objects. The first members of the "dwarf planet" category are Ceres, Pluto and 2003 UB313 (temporary name). More "dwarf planets" are expected to be announced by the IAU in the coming months and years. Currently a dozen candidate "dwarf planets" are listed on IAU's "dwarf planet" watchlist, which keeps changing as new objects are found and the physics of the existing candidates becomes better known.

The "dwarf planet" Pluto is recognised as an important proto-type of a new class of trans-Neptunian objects. The IAU will set up a process to name these objects.

Below are the planet definition Resolutions that were passed.

Notes for editors A press conference about the Closing Ceremony of the General Assembly, including the results of the planet-definition vote, will be held at 18:00, in Meeting Room 3.3 of the Prague Congress Center. (It will NOT be possible for journalists to ring in to this conference: they must be there in person.)

The panel for the press conference will be: * Ron Ekers (outgoing IAU President) * Catherine Cesarsky (incoming IAU President, Member of the Planet Definition Committee) * Jan Palous (Chair of the National Organising Committee) * Richard Binzel (Member of the Planet Definition Committee) * Karel van der Hucht (incoming Secretary General)

This press conference will conclude around 18:30 CEST.

The IAU is the international astronomical organisation that brings together distinguished astronomers from all nations of the world. Its mission is to promote and safeguard the science of astronomy in all its aspects through international cooperation. Founded in 1919, the IAU is the world's largest professional body for astronomers. The IAU General Assembly is held every three years and is one of the largest and most diverse meetings on the astronomical community's calendar.

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Last Updated: 25 Aug 2006