|This week Jinny’s article will be written by her daughter, Adele Anderson
Yesterday, while driving home from work, I heard some shocking news on the radio. It would seem that a group of astronomers and astrophysicists from all over the world have come to the conclusion that Pluto is not a planet.
Imagine my shock and surprise. Pluto has been a planet for a pretty long time. I had to wonder what it was the Pluto did to get demoted and lose its planetary status. It seems kind of harsh. Not a whole lot of dignity for poor Pluto.
It turns out that early astronomers believed that Pluto was a planet because it was bigger than a breadbox and seemed to be in an orbit around our sun. Although that may have been a logical assumption at the time, scientific advances have indicated that Pluto is not big enough to actually be a planet and in orbit all by itself; but is a part of a belt of debris and asteroids and whatnot. The objects are not orbiting the sun independently, but rather, they are part of the belt which is doing the actual orbiting. In other words, if the belt disappeared Pluto would just be a big hunk of icy stuff sitting aimlessly in the sky instead of a big hunk of icy stuff with a cool name that gets to be part of a solar system.
That’s right, it would seem that Pluto can no longer be named Pluto. Pluto is a name for a planet and since it is no longer in that category, it not only loses its status, it also loses its name. Icy hunks of rock don’t get cool names of Roman gods. Icy hunks of rock get to be named Harold or Ronald or Trevor or something equally uninteresting. The kind of boring names they give hurricanes.
Apparently, the scientists considered renaming it Pluton. The geologists objected because Pluton is the name that they gave to some kind of magma rock formation or something. The Italian scientists objected because evidently, Pluton is the Italian name for Pluto anyway.
According to the news report, the scientists were getting a little testy during the International Conference. Is it any wonder? I mean, come on, this is an emotional issue. You can’t just throw a planet out of the solar system and not expect some people to get upset. The Conference was being chaired by a very well known Harvard astronomer who was interviewed by a reporter. He sounded about a thousand years old. He said that the Conference attendees were somewhat antsy and cacophonous. In other words, they were badly behaved and noisy. He went on to say that it was less like an actual conference and more like herding cats. Who knew that astronomers were such party animals?
If you think about it, this tossing out of Pluto is going to create some problems. Every Planetarium in the world now has to change their program and eliminate Pluto. Grade school teachers everywhere have to figure out a way to remove Pluto from that three dimensional model we all remember. Sure, you can just pull off the ball that represents Pluto, but what are you going to put in its place? I suppose you could just stick a marshmallow on instead; it kind of looks like a chunk of icy rock in the right light.
Maintenance guys precariously balanced on tall ladders are going to have to be climbing up to all those huge mobiles hanging in museums and removing Pluto. Things could get dicey.
The reporter also interviewed the head of the National Association of Astronomers, who had a quandary of his own. The telephone number for that organization is 1-800-9worlds. He mentioned that he would be calling the telephone company the next day to change it.
I envision organizations and societies cropping up all over the world in the coming months that will have interesting names like, “The Save Pluto Club”, or “The Friends of Pluto”, or “The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Pluto”. I can see it now, people in the streets, carrying signs and shouting, “Heck no, Pluto won’t go!” while marching on observatories and science departments of major universities. Astronomers will be pelted with icy hunks of rock when they leave their homes and offices. Who knows how far these Pluto fanatics may go? They may even kidnap that little old astronomer from Harvard and hold him hostage until Pluto is reinstated as a full blown planet.
I suspect that the Pluto controversy will ultimately cool down and people will learn to live with an 8-planet solar system. In the end, thanks to the wonders of new technology and the Hubble telescope, we are now learning and seeing so many new and fascinating things out there that it seems a little extreme to get too worked up about a hunk of icy rock. I feel bad for Pluto, but, hey…when you gotta go, you gotta go.