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太阳系可能“扩军”冥王星受审判

2006-08-22 09:52

    PRAGUE, Czech Republic (AP) —— Our solar system would have 12 planets instead of nine under a proposed "Big Bang" expansion by leading astronomers, changing what billions of schoolchildren are taught about their corner of the cosmos.

    摘要:  传统的“太阳系九大行星”概念正面临着被颠覆的危险。天文学家16日在此间举行的国际天文学联合会大会上正式提交有关行星定义的决议草案,这份草案如获通过,太阳系行星将扩充至12颗。

    Much-maligned Pluto would remain a planet —— and its largest moon plus two other heavenly bodies would join Earth's neighborhood —— under a draft resolution to be formally presented Wednesday to the International Astronomical Union, the arbiter of what is and is not a planet.

    "Yes, Virginia, Pluto is a planet," quipped Richard Binzel, a professor of planetary science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

    The proposal could change, however: Binzel and the other nearly 2,500 astronomers from 75 nations meeting in Prague to hammer out a universal definition of a planet will hold two brainstorming sessions before they vote on the resolution next week. But the draft comes from the IAU's executive committee, which only submits recommendations likely to get two-thirds approval from the group.

    Besides reaffirming the status of puny Pluto —— whose detractors insist should not be a planet at all —— the new lineup would include 2003 UB313, the farthest-known object in the solar system and nicknamed Xena; Pluto's largest moon, Charon; and the asteroid Ceres, which was a planet in the 1800s before it was demoted.

    The panel also proposed a new category of planets called "plutons," referring to Pluto-like objects that reside in the Kuiper Belt, a mysterious, disc-shaped zone beyond Neptune containing thousands of comets and planetary objects. Pluto itself and two of the potential newcomers —— Charon and 2003 UB313 —— would be plutons.

    Even if the list of planets is officially lengthened when astronomers vote on Aug. 24, it is not likely to stay that way for long: The IAU has a "watchlist" of at least a dozen other potential candidates that could become planets once more is known about their sizes and orbits.

    注释:astronomer:n. 天文学家

    cosmos:n. 宇宙

    Pluto:n. 冥王星

    arbiter:n. 仲裁者

    quip:v. 嘲弄

    hammer out:推敲出

    brainstorm:v. 集体讨论

    puny:adj. 弱小的

    asteroid:adj. 星状的

    Neptune:n. 海王星

    candidate:n. 候选人

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