A Sad Year
As 2006 draws to a close, I’m reminded what a sad year it was for our solar system. This was the year that the International Astronomical Union (slogan: we gaze when it pays) voted down Pluto’s membership on the Planetary Committee.
I suppose we should have seen the writing on the wall for Pluto back in 1999 when the IAU last took up the issue of Pluto’s position. Back then the union caved to outside pressure at the last minute when the public got wind of their impending action.
However this time around Pluto just couldn’t muster the votes and was sent packing, a planet no more. But rather than go straight at the issue and risk a public outcry, the Union leadership chose a more effective indirect approach to oust Pluto. Instead of voting on Pluto’s status directly they redefined the requirements for office in such a way that Pluto couldn’t possibly remain.
Under the new Union rules Pluto has been relegated to “Dwarf Planet” status and no longer has the influence it enjoyed previously. Rumor has it the EEOC is investigating allegations of discrimination in the case.
Now in defense of the IAU you gotta admit that Pluto has never really been one to play by union rules. From the beginning Pluto has been a bit of a celestial problem child.
Take for example the way Pluto exploded onto the scene as a result of an agreeable blunder only as recently as 1930. Apparently some astronomers calculated (something they seem to do a lot) that there should be another planet beyond Neptune and went looking.
Their calculations turned out to be completely wrong, I’m told, but they found Pluto anyway, just about where they predicted. Go figure.
Since the newly discovered and erroneously predicted planet was so far out there in deep cold space they decided to name it after the Roman god of the underworld, Pluto. It seems to me to be an odd choice because I thought the underworld was associated with fire and heat. But what do I know?
Well, one thing I know is that astronomers have way to complicated a vocabulary. I haven’t had so much fun with syllables since I took that electronic warfare course back in the Navy. I get the feeling that some of those folks could stand to get out a little more, say during the day. It would be good for them to spend a little time around people. But I digress.
Pluto didn’t even behave after its rapid and prestigious ascension to the committee. For one thing the upstart planet rotated in the wrong direction. And even though Pluto’s assigned seat was as the 9th planet, it ducks out of it’s fashionable residence in the Kuiper Belt in closer to the sun than Neptune for about 20 years out of every trip around the sun.
OK. So really it is only part of Pluto’s year. But since we’re reader sensitive here and the overwhelming majority of our readers are on Earth we’re sticking with Earth conventions for measuring time. It’s about 20 years. And I’m not sure if that made Pluto the 8th planet for that time or not. But I do know it isn’t normal planetary behavior.
Regardless the point is moot now. Pluto’s out. And we’re back to an 8 planet solar system. Sounds like a good excuse for a whole bunch of new science text books to me.
Reaction is Mixed
Well, not so mixed really. Most people don’t seem to care much at all.
We should note that we were unable to get any official reaction from Disney’s Pluto (mostly because we didn’t actually ask). However we don’t expect he was overly distraught by this new development. He doesn’t say much anyway. And his job seems mostly to involve slobbering on Mickey enough that he starts laughing. Kinda makes you wonder why he’s named after the Roman god of the underworld, now that I think about it.
For a little reaction from the Pluto picture folks with a little too much Photoshop time on their hands check out the Eyewitless News: Save Pluto. Good stuff.
Oh, and in a classic example of superior government planning, NASA has launched a deep space probe called New Horizons to head out specifically to explore Pluto. Just this year, in fact. Apparently NASA still hasn’t gotten the word about Pluto’s loss of status this summer. As late as their November 28th press release they are still calling Pluto a planet. But then I guess it wouldn’t do to be spending all that money just to check out anything less than a planet.
So Basically it doesn’t much matter whether Pluto’s a planet or not. The Earth keeps spinning. The sun keeps rising, mostly in the east. The only difference is that our universe is a slightly sadder place than it was a year ago.
But hey, that’s just The Way I C it.
Chris Cree is a regular contributor here at Successful-Blog and he helps businesses fuel growth through blogging with his consulting business, SuccessCREEations.