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Pluto will always be a planet in my book

Pluto's "demotion" was largely about politics.

Much of the following is based on the book "Chasing New Horizons", written by Alan Stern and David Grinspoon. Stern was in charge of the New Horizons mission to Pluto.

Pluto was discovered by an American "research assistant" at Lowell Observatory, named Clyde Tombaugh. (He eventually went on to get a degree in astronomy.) This was in 1930. (Tombaugh eventually wrote "Out of the Darkness", which describes how he made that discovery. I enjoyed reading it years ago, but it is a very nerdy book, and not for everyone.)

Many years later, a British astronomer named Brian Marsden developed a personal animosity toward Tombaugh, and in 1980 Marsden told Tombaugh that he intended to erase Tombaugh's legacy and see to it that Pluto got reclassified as an asteroid.

And so, on the very last day of the 2006 Conference of the International Astronomer's Union (IAU) Marsden and his team introduced a very restricted definition of a planet. It was voted on and approved by the small crowd on hangers-on in the final afternoon of the conference -- less than 4% of IAU membership participated in the vote. Pluto got renamed a "dwarf planet."

Meanwhile, there is another group of scientists called planetary scientists, who are a bit different from astronomers in their focus. Planetary scientists study the geology , meteorology, and potential biology of individual planets, as worlds. To them, Pluto was still a planet. The fact that Pluto did not have enough gravity to clear out all debris in its orbit (which was central to the IAU's new definition of a planet) struck them as irrelevant to what they studied. In fact, within two weeks of the IAU vote, planetary scientists sent a petition , with more signatures than the total number of people voting at the IAU conference, declaring that they did not recognize the authority of astronomers to define what a planet was, that the adopted definition was flawed, and that they would not use it.

In my own experiences with my little telescope, I learned early on that I am more interested in observing the moon and planets than I am in looking at stars and galaxies. That is, I have the temperament of a planetary scientist, rather than of an astronomer.

Pluto is still a planet to planetary scientists. And it is still a planet for me.
I thought Pluto was a dog.

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DrWatson · 70-79, M
@PhoenixPhail That, at least, is something that will never change!
hippyjoe1955 · 61-69, M
@PhoenixPhail I think Pluto was the Roman god of death.
DrWatson · 70-79, M
@hippyjoe1955 Pluto was the god of the underworld, not of death. Pluto was also associated with wealth, since precious metals come from underground. (Hence the word "plutocracy.")

As far as I know, death was never personified in Roman mythology.
fun4us2b · M
I visited Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff about 30 years ago and it was fairly dingey and run down, but now looking on their website it looks like it's been renovated and looking sharp...
bookerdana · M

Sorry bout that! Me,too
I don't object to Pluto being re-instated among the planets. But if you, you definitely have to add Eris as well. And what about Ceres out there among the asteroids slowly accreting more mass?

DrWatson · 70-79, M
@ElwoodBlues Yes. Eris was named after the goddess of discord, precisely because that body started all of this arguing!

I'm all for more planets!

One of the arguments for dropping Pluto from the list is that a longer list of planets would be too hard for school children to memorize! 🤦🏼‍♂️
Bang5luts · M
@fun4us2b I've been there as well, back in 96 or 97. 😆
Bang5luts · M
@DrWatson I don't remember the giftshop
DrWatson · 70-79, M
@Bang5luts Sorry. I didn't notice who you were replying to. I thought you were joking about visiting Pluto!
Bang5luts · M
@DrWatson is ok. No problem. I'm usually being quite silly so I actually expect people to respond in kind. 😁
LordShadowfire · 46-50, M
Well, Scroopy Noopers tells me that it's getting smaller because the Plutonian government won't stop mining plutonium to power their luxury items.
DeGrasse Tyson said he got a ton of hate mail from grade school kids that first year he downgraded Pluto, and still gets occasional vitriol filled letters from kids.

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