Not a planet after all.

Saturday, August 26th, 2006

Poor Pluto: demoted, rejected, kicked out of the big kids’ club—just another icy rock in a solar system full of ‘em.

I think the International Astronomical Union is being awfully hard on little Pluto. “Pluto has lots and lots of friends,” said Iwan Williams of the IAU, “We’re not so keen to have Pluto and all his friends in the club because it gets crowded.” I mean, that’s just harsh.

It’s all the fault of that upstart 2003 UB313 (or “Xena”), a bit of “Kuiper Belt riffraff”, as Tim Kreider put it so hilariously in the New York Times. Things were fine until Xena showed up and starting casting doubt on whether Pluto really deserved to remain in the inner circle. Sure, Pluto’s a bit small and erratic, but the rest of the planets were getting along just fine with him. Now, all of a sudden, he doesn’t make the grade. What gives?

It seems the solar system is as fickle as a high school. Tim Kreider wrote:

“I’ve long regarded Saturn’s misty tantalizing moon Titan as the Homecoming Queen of the solar system, courted and fawned over, stringing us along with teasing glimpses under her atmosphere, while Pluto was more like the chubby Goth chick who wrote weird poems about dead birds and never talked to anybody.”

I certainly haven’t been immune to Titan’s charms. But since I was that Goth chick who wrote weird poems and never talked to anybody, I guess I have a special place in my heart for gloomy old Pluto.

Well, maybe Pluto’s better off this way. Maybe Pluto doesn’t really want to be a member of any club that would accept him. Okay, so now he’s stuck with the other “icy wrecks” in the Kuiper Belt. But maybe he and his buddy Charon can find like-minded dwarf planets there—other ostracized celestial bodies that won’t make Pluto feel self-conscious about his size or how he chooses to orbit the sun. One can only hope that, in the wildly diverse region that is the outer solar system, Pluto will have the freedom to become the best dwarf planet he can possibly be.



jessy punk

Posted by Michelle

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