Astronomy 23/223 Homework:

What is a Planet, Anyway?

Over the last few years there has been a great controversy over the subject of how you define what counts as a planet. To get you warmed up and think about planets, this week's homework focuses on this issue. Here are links to a few articles on this subject (note: the Sky and Telescope articles were scanned at high resolution, so they are big files. Don't try to print them out in color -- it takes forever! The black and white versions are much smaller):

The 1999 Press Release from the International Astronomical Union

Two articles from the New York Times about Pluto: 1 2

What to Call the Little Planet, Sky and Telescope, May 1999, by Beatty
black and white

The Puzzles of Planethood, Sky and Telescope, August 2002, by Denise Kaisler
black and white

Toward a Planet Paradigm, Sky and Telescope, August 2002, by Stern and Levison
black and white


For this week’s homework:


I’d like you to research the controversy of how to define a planet. In 2-3 pages (no more than 3 pages!), create a definition of a planet (dictionairy definition will not surfice), support your definition with evidence from the articles, and explain if Pluto should or should not qualify as a planet by your definition. Please cite your sources. If you have any questions about how to cite sources check this website or ask me.


There was no right or wrong answer to this assignment. Instead, what we were looking for was your ability to take information from the articles, create a clear and coherant definition, support the definition with information from the article, and have a logical progression as to if Pluto is a planet or not. Points may be taken off if you did not cite your sources of if you did so incorrectly.



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Last updated on 28 May, 2004 .