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Friday, August 25, 2006


Pluto may be gone, but the two planets claimed by Tennessee State University are still planets.The school is proud of its discoveries and touts them on a billboard along Briley Parkway saying, "TSU has discovered two new planets. Have you discovered TSU?"

Greg Henry, an astronomer and researcher at Tennessee State, assisted in the discovery of HD209458b in 1999 and HD 149026 in 2005. The International Astronomical Union said Thursday that the definition and classification of planets orbiting other stars would be taken at another time. Prof. Henry is a voting member of the International Astronomical Union.

But by the definitions approved for planets that orbit our sun, "both meet the criteria to be planets in the extra-solar system (outside our solar system)," Henry said Thursday.

While he was satisfied with the vote not to expand the number of planets in Earth's family, he was not happy about the tag "dwarf planet" put on Pluto and several other objects in outer space. "A dwarf planet is not a planet," he said. "It's bad use of grammar, and the name doesn't really make sense. If a body isn't massive enough to be a planet, then it's not a planet."
Henry suspects that there will be much debate over Pluto: "The Pluto faction isn't going to give up easily."

Planet HD209458b was the first planet to be discovered since Pluto in 1930. It is a gas giant, much larger than Jupiter. HD 149026 is the largest terrestrial planet detected


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