Guide to the solar system and planet formerly known as Pluto

Eric Reed and Eric Reed

The sky is falling. At least that is what it feels like at times in the University planetarium when the stars are moving quickly overhead in the pitch black.

The show currently playing at the planetarium, called “Nine Planets and Counting,” gives explanations as to why Pluto has fallen off the list of planets in our solar system.

“Nine Planets and Counting” does not just tell why Pluto is no longer a planet, but it also goes on a tour of all the objects in the solar system to explain why these objects are named planets, moons or dwarf planets.

When the show begins the audience is whisked away to the sun to start the journey to the edge of the solar system and discover what exactly it is that makes a celestial body a planet.

The show was originally designed and produced by the Sudekum Planetarium in Nashville, Tenn., and was brought to campus by physics and astronomy professor Dale Smith, who is also the director of the planetarium.

“It’s a hot-button topic in the press,” Smith said.

He also added that there has been a lot of criticism over the Pluto decision, but said there has to be a line drawn somewhere in determining what is a planet and what is not.

This is a popular topic after the International Astronomical Union declared last year that Pluto was no longer a planet, but instead a dwarf planet.

According to a resolution found on the IAU Web site, a dwarf planet is “in orbit around the sun, is nearly round in shape, has not cleared the neighborhood around its orbit, and is not a satellite.” Pluto fits these criteria better than the criteria to be a planet.

Accepting this declaration by the IAU is not easy for all audience members. This was most apparent for one audience member, who has attended at least one of every show played at the planetarium since 1984.

“Pluto is still a planet for sentimental reasons,” said Robin Hofacker, a local resident.

The show may not convince everyone that Pluto is no longer a planet, but freshman A.J. Helfen said that everyone should see the show because it explains why Pluto was demoted.