Canadian Consulting Engineer

AMEC’s telescopes instrumental in demoting Pluto

September 22, 2006
By Canadian Consulting Engineer

Canadian engineering company AMEC played a role in the recent demotion of Pluto as a planet. Amec's Dynamic Structu...

Canadian engineering company AMEC played a role in the recent demotion of Pluto as a planet. Amec’s Dynamic Structures laboratory in Coquitlam, B.C. builds extremely powerful telescopes for scientific research.
In August, the International Astronomical Union decided strip Pluto of its planet status after a telescope designed and built in Canada by AMEC in Vancouver discovered yet another body that rivalled Pluto in size and characteristics called Zena. The IAU also renamed Zena as “Eris,” after the Greek goddess of chaos and strife — reflecting the controversy that erupted on the decision to declassify Pluto.
There has long been controversy about the classification of Pluto. It was classified as the ninth planet shortly after its discovery and remained so for 75 years, but then other planet-like objects of similar size were discovered to be in our solar system.
According to resolutions at the IAU 2006 General Assembly, now that Pluto has been dropped, there are only eight true planets in our solar system: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune.
The IAU created a new class of “dwarf planets,” to include Pluto. It also includes Ceres and 2003 UB313 as well as a dozen other potential objects.
According to the new IAU definitions, the main difference between a planet and a dwarf planet is that a dwarf planet has not cleared the neighbourhood around its orbit and is not a satellite.
Pluto’s orbit is highly eccentric. At times it is closer to the Sun than Neptune, and it rotates in the opposite direction from most of the other planets.
Amec is one of Canadas largest consulting engineering companies. Its Dynamic Structures division is currently working on TMT, which will be the world’s largest telescope when completed in 2015. In the past AMEC designed and built the enclosures for the two Gemini telescopes, one on Mauna Kea in Hawaii and the other in Chile.


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