Tilting At Windmills: Pluto Is Back!!!
Published: January 14th, 2022
By: Shelly Reuben

Tilting at Windmills:  Pluto Is Back!!!

Well...Well...Well.

Interesting things are happening in the world of astronomy, and they all relate to poor, bullied (those big kids can be so ruthless) Pluto, which was kicked out of the planetary schoolyard in 2006 by some outfit called the IAU.

Their justification, or so they said, was that the ninth plant from the sun shares an orbit with something called “plutinos.”

This expulsion outraged Pluto fans all over the world. So much so that in an episode of the hit TV series THE BIG BANG THEORY, fictional physicist Sheldon Cooper, upon being introduced to famous astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, rebuffs him by saying, “I’m quite familiar with Dr. Tyson. He’s responsible for the demotion of Pluto from planetary status. I liked Pluto...ergo, I do not like you.”

Fifteen years after Pluto’s ignominious ouster, however, a study conducted by a team of researchers at the University of Central Florida claims that the IAU’s classification of planets is based on astrology (a pseudo-science), not astronomy (the science of everything in the universe beyond the earth’s atmosphere), and that Pluto should be reinstated. Phillip Metzger, planetary physicist and lead author of the study, is quoted in the journal ICARUS as saying, “We are continuing to call Pluto a planet in our papers...Basically, we are ignoring the IAU.”

This is great news.

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Some time ago, I wrote an article for The Evening Sun expressing my dismay about all of these planetary shenanigans. Since most of you never read it, I bring it back today to celebrate Pluto’s forthcoming vindication ... which I gleefully sum up by yelling “Yay, Pluto!”

Nine Planets. That’s Right. Nine.

Originally published on June 5, 2008

Quick. How many dwarfs are there and what are their names?

Stick out your fingers and tally them off: Grumpy. Sleepy. Doc. Bashful. Happy. Sneezy. Dopey. Seven. Count ‘em. Seven dwarfs. That’s the way it is, and that’s the way it always should be.

Now, let’s have a go at the Commandments (if you have trouble here, just think about the title of the movie).

Well. That was easy. Of commandments, there are ten.

On to the Great Lakes. The memory clue is HOMES: Huron. Ontario. Michigan. Erie. Superior. Five Great Lakes. Always have been. Always will be.

We can also consider Santa’s Reindeer: Nine, if you include Rudolph.

The deadly sins: Seven. My favorite being gluttony.

The days of the week: Another Big Seven, including one day to rest. Well ... two days unless you’re self-employed. But that’s another story.

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Now, here’s the question that should get your knees quivering and your socks rolling up and down: Ready?

HOW MANY PLANETS ARE THERE?

Don’t stop and think. Just answer. Starting with the one nearest to the sun, there are: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto. Nine planets, right?

We learned it in school. Our parents learned it in school. Our grandparents and their parents learned it in school. And our children are going to ... Oh, no. Wait.

What’s this I hear?

An article in National Geographic News tells us that at a meeting in Prague of the International Astronomical Union (IAU), a bunch of soul-less sky scanning killjoys (No. National Geographic didn’t call them that), voted to change the definition for the word planet. “A full-fledged planet,” the IAU proclaims, “is an object that orbits the sun and is large enough to have become round due to the force of its own gravity. In addition, a planet has to dominate the neighborhood around its orbit.”

Pluto, according to these semantic thugs, is not big enough to dominate anything. That being the case, they have demoted it to “dwarf.”

Dwarf?

Didn’t anybody ever tell those IAU buttinskies that it isn’t the size of the dwarf in a planet; it’s the size of the planet in a dwarf. Or something.

Fact is, it doesn’t matter how or even if Pluto measures up to the new definition. The truly important thing is that PLUTO IS OURS. It is inextricably intertwined in the poetry of our past. It was part of the miniature models of the solar system that we studied when we were in school. It was part of the mnemonics of our childhoods. It was discovered before Walt Disney animated one, let alone all seven of Snow White’s Hi-Ho-ing little friends.

And now, what?

The IAU wants to take Pluto away from us. Why? Did it move?

No. It’s right where it has always been.

Is it smaller? Bigger? Denser? Lighter? No. No. No. And no.

Still...those party-poopers from Prague have decided to take Pluto away from us and give it to Snow White. She’ll have an eighth dwarf. A dwarf planet.

Imagine this. You and your honey have been married for forty years. You have four children, six grandchildren, and three bulldogs. One day, an envelope arrives in the mail advising you that the minister who married you wasn’t really a minister, your marriage certificate is a fraud, and you aren’t really married at all.

Are you going to believe that?

No. Of course not.

You are going to tear up the letter, rush over to city hall, find a judge, and go through the ceremony all over again. And you are never going to tell your children, your grand-children, or your dogs.

Why?

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Because, legalities not-withstanding, you know that you had always been married. Just as, revised definition notwithstanding, we know that Pluto will always belong in the sun’s lineup of celestial orbs.

And if that isn’t good enough for those high and mighty scientists, I have a simple solution. In recent years, Nelson Mandela was given an Honorary Doctorate from Harvard University; Paul McCartney was equally honored by Yale; and Isaac Asimov was given fourteen similar degrees.

If Nelson, Paul, and Isaac are good enough to have been awarded honorary doctorates, surely Pluto de-serves no less acclaim. We can make Pluto an Honorary Planet. Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and ... and ... and … you get the point.

Let’s just say that, like a good marriage without benefit of clergy, our once-and-forever ninth planet from the sun has been grandfathered in.

Copyright © Shelly Reuben, 2022. Shelly Reuben’s books have been nominated for Edgar, Prometheus, and Falcon awards. For more about her writing, visit www.shellyreuben.com




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