20120517

Astronomy quiz question: IAU classification of vulcanoids

Astronomy 210 Quiz 7, spring semester 2012
Cuesta College, San Luis Obispo, CA

Refer below to the minimal qualifications established by the International Astronomical Union for a planet:
I. Orbits the sun.
II. Shape "rounded-out" by gravity.
III. Cleared/dominates orbit around sun.
Vulcanoids[*] are hypothesized to be a group of irregularly shaped bodies inside of Mercury's orbit around the sun. If all these vulcanoids were relocated to share Mercury's orbit around the sun, they would be:
(A) a moon.
(B) solar system debris.
(C) a dwarf planet.
(D) a planet.
(E) (None of the above choices.)

[*]Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vulcan_(astronomy)#Vulcan_revived.

Correct answer: (B)

Since the vulcanoids would be now relocated to directly orbit the sun (qualification I), but are still not rounded in shape (qualification II), this categorizes them as solar system debris.

Section 30676
Exam code: quiz07sPh3
(A) : 7 students
(B) : 18 students
(C) : 7 students
(D) : 0 students
(E) : 0 students

"Success level": 62% (including partial credit for multiple-choice)
Discrimination index (Aubrecht & Aubrecht, 1983): 0.70

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