Planet Pluto on the Chopping Block

by Val Germann

It’s refreshing to turn away from Global Warming and Climate Change to something truly trivial: the destruction of an entire planet! Yes, our beloved Planet Pluto, the only one named after a dog (or was it the other way around?) is about to be stripped of its epaulettes and relegated to the outer darkness. Oh, wait a minute, it already IS in the outer darkness so, well, it’s just going to be de-moted, or rather re-moted, down to actual mote, or un-planet, whatever. The people who do this sort of thing, the International Astronomical Union, are meeting now, in secret cabal, to decide the issue, as reported by the BBC:

Astronomers are gathering in the Czech capital, Prague, hoping to define exactly what counts as a planet. The International Astronomical Union hopes to settle the question of Pluto, which was first spotted in 1930.

Yes, Pluto was discovered by American Clyde Tombaugh, a personal hero of mine. Clyde was a great guy, universally liked, and as long as he lived there was no way Pluto was in trouble. But Clyde passed away in the mid-1990s, and within months a serious effort was underway, in some circles, to de-planetize Pluto.

As an astronomy teacher, who still uses a blackboard, giving Pluto the heave-ho will help me out. When I put the planets up on the board this fall there may at last be true symmetry, the four terrestrial planets balanced by the four Gas Giants, and no Pluto to upset the apple cart, or planet chart, whatever.

But I’ll hate to see Pluto go, no doubt. It’s the only planet discovered by an American and the only planet that barks. Yup, I’ll just hate to give all that up.

Read the entire BBC article here.

About Val

I am a long-time teacher of science and astronomy with a strong interest in resource conservation and the environment.
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