Meet The New Planets

We used to think of the solar system as nine lonely worlds traveling in neat rings around the sun. But the harder astronomers look, the more crowded our cosmic neighborhood seems to become

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THOMAS MICHAEL ALLEMAN FOR TIME

PLANET HUNTER: Brown is finding new worlds at a dizzying pace

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Tyson, ever the iconoclast, thinks the word planet should be retired entirely, not just stripped from Pluto. "You tell me something's a planet," he says, "then I have to ask you 20 more questions to figure out what it actually is." As an educator as well as a scientist, though, he is thrilled that the question of planethood has been opened for freewheeling public discussion. "The point," says Tyson, who is working on a book about the Pluto debacle, "is that the solar system is a lot more interesting than just a list of nine planets." And thanks to Michael Brown and his associates, that fact is impossible to avoid.

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