I keep running into the aurora borealis. This morning it popped up as a gaming locale in the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport. While colorful, I’ll admit the display was a bit on the static side.
I’m headed to Denver to the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) in nearby Boulder today to attend a conference for new media folks on a wide variety of space topics by a great lineup of speakers. Presentations include the moons of Mars, the Kuiper Belt, lunar dust, the aerospace industry and what makes a planet a planet. The last will be given by none other than Alan Stern, the principal investigator for the New Horizons mission to Pluto. You’ll all recall that Pluto was “demoted” to dwarf planet status in 2006.
The new definition has three criteria – to qualify as a planet the object must orbit the sun (or star), have enough mass to crush itself into a spherical shape and be the dominate body in its orbital neighborhood. Pluto scores well on the first two but fails the third because there are lots of other mini-Plutos (even a few maxi-Plutos) along the inner edge of the Kuiper Belt where Pluto resides.
I hope to learn a lot, ask a few burning questions and have a blast. Our group includes 16 other science media writers/bloggers/video people from around the country. I’ll share my experiences later this weekend through pictures and words.