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The Prodigal Planet Returns

- March 7, 2009


Remember a few years ago when the solar system changed? Pluto, that far-out little rock, was summarily expelled by decree of the International Astronomical Union, and the nine-planet solar system we had all grown to love became just eight? This was a wrenching development for many of us, causing us to begin questioning all the ostensibly eternal verities we had learned at an impressionable age, e.g., ROY G. BIV, I before E except after C, and doing that will cause hair to grow on your palms.

Well, good news is on the way. Order is being restored to the universe, or at least to the solar system, under the inspired leadership of the State of Illinois. Here’s the story, as reported in The Guardian (March 5, 2009):

bq. In their wisdom, the IAU came up with a new class of heavenly body, “dwarf planet”, which would include Pluto. Dwarf planets, incidentally, are not planets that are dwarfy. They are something completely different, the IAU said.

bq. The new definition was such a kluge that the chair of the IAU’s own planet definition committee, Owen Gingerich, said: “We now have dwarf planets which are in fact not planets. I consider this a linguistic catastrophe.”

bq. It seems that the insult to Pluto has been too much to bear for the good people of Illinois. State documents declare that Pluto was unfairly downgraded, and that the decision to demote the poor planet resulted from a vote involving only 4% of the IAU membership.

bq. As such, the Illinois state governors have resolved to take action and reinstate Pluto as a planet. What’s more, they have announced their intention to name Friday 13 March 2009 “Pluto Day,” to mark its discovery in 1930 by Clyde Tombaugh, who happened to be born on a farm in the state.

I’m hoping that these forward-thinking Illinis’ next campaign will be to get P (for pink, my favorite color) added to the ROY G. BIV spectrum.

[Hat tip to Zsuzsa Csergo]

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