Well this blog is mostly about Pluto, the old Planet 9, and the controversy over its name change, and the new contentious and possibly new Planet 9. So, there were quite a lot of fireworks and passion and emotion at the AAS/DPS meeting, so don't be mislead into believing that
scientists are cold and unfeeling, because we certainly witnessed some emotion. Now, I'm not going to going over that part of the sessions, but there is some irony in the killing off of Pluto as Planet 9 (See Mike Brown's "Why I killed Pluto and why it had it coming") and the reemergence of a new possible planet 9, which is supposed to be about 10 times as massive as the Earth.
The AAS presentation started this session off is shown in the opening slide below.
|Caltech Brown and Batygin playfully add their findings to the controversy|
I cannot summarize those authors arguments, but for background on this whole interesting story, check out the Wikipedia page: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Planet_Nine
That article begins the story with some work by Trujillo and Sheppard in 2014 where they inferred the existence of some large planet 9 from an examination of the known KBOs at that time. Subsequent investigation by Brown and Batygin in 2016 extended the analysis, first as an attempt to refute the earlier study, and now still leaning in the direction of the proposed Planet 9. Scott Sheppard was at the AAS and made a similar presentation showing how the proposed planet, and their continuing search for it, can explain the observed clustering observed as more and more KBOs are found.
|Conjectured Planet 9 as possible explanation for KBO Alignment (Courtesy Wikipedia)|
Finally, as part of the public lecture portion of the AAS meeting, Alan Stern made a great lecture presentation on the history of the New Horizons probe and some of the interesting discoveries made about Pluto. No one could predict and no one did predict how strange Pluto really turned out to be. He made a great presentation and his passion for Pluto and what is now becoming the new science behind KBOs was one of the best presentations that I saw.
His discussion of the many years it took to get funding for New Horizons, and the several times when the project was cancelled and then reborn was an interesting look at funding large solar system exploration projects. He had fun showing the slide below about one alternate funding scheme that did not come to fruition, but with the advent of many crowd sourcing projects and projects funded by billionaire entrepreneurs it is hard to say how the next missions will be funded.
|Alan Stern playfully considered how to get funding and pay for New Horizon probe to Pluto|
|Planetary Society CEO Bill Nye, The Science Guy, presents the Cosmos Award to Alan Stern, New Horizons Team|
Until next time,