Many of us can probably recall maps of the solar system from our school days that showed nine planets, from Mercury to Pluto, orbiting around the sun. All that changed in 2006, when the International Astronomical Association voted to demote Pluto from a real planet to the newly coined category of “dwarf planet,” a move that stirred controversy around the world.
Today’s guest, astronomer Mike Brown, played a key role in the decision to boot Pluto from the pantheon of planets. His discovery of a possible 10th planet, nicknamed Xena, after the warrior princess on TV, raised questions about the definition of planet, and whether Pluto and other new discoveries belonged.
Dr. Brown has written about his experiences in his book How I killed Pluto and Why it Had it Coming, and today we’re pleased to have him as a guest on our show.
Dr. Brown is the Richard and Barbara Rosenberg Professor of Planetary Astronomy at the California Institute of Technology and has been on the faculty there since 1996. He specializes in the discovery and study of bodies at the edge of the solar system.
Feature articles about Dr. Brown and his work have appeared in the New Yorker, the New York Times, and Discover, and his discoveries have been covered on front pages of countless newspapers worldwide. In 2006 he was named one of Time magazine's 100 Most Influential People.