24
Aug
06

Good-Bye, Pluto!

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Pluto and Charon skulk off to a dark corner of the solar system to pout about their demotion. Charon has reportedly threatened to “kick Earth’s ass.”
[Gene Smith’s Astronomy Tutorial]

I never learned the mnemonic device to remember the order of the planets: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto. I remember the lines of the treble clef scale are the notes E, G, B, D and F, because Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge, but I was never aware that My Very Excellent Mother Just Sent Us Nine Pizzas.

And it’s a good thing, too. I might have wasted a lot of time memorizing this, because it’s all quite useless now!

Dictionary researchers might all now breathe a sigh of relief, but sentimentalists are already having a hard time adjusting to the new order. Because we finally have a workable definition for “planet,” some scientists meeting in Prague have decided to strip Pluto of its planetary status. Pluto and its primary satellite Charon are now “dwarf planets.” I think they’re calling these itty-bitty planetoids “plutons,” in honor of the recently defrocked rock. You know, a consolation prize. No one goes home empty-handed!

Ah, Pluto, you’ve been a good sport all these years. Thanks for playing.

Early reports indicate that Pluto is coping well with the news. “It’s not what we were hoping for, obviously,” the stunned celestial body said, “but life goes on. We’ll get through it all right. I just want to be with my family now.”

The move means a considerably greater loss to Charon, which has less graciously accepted the news. Charon is only a satellite, and now it’s not even the satellite of a planet. Charon, loyal to Pluto to the bitter end, has retracted earlier threats that it would “kick Earth’s ass.”

“It was said in the heat of the moment. I’m sorry. At least I’m not a lousy moon, I guess,” Charon said. “But what am I?”

No longer can our very excellent mother send us pizzas. Now she must instead send us none. Or nowhere. Or maybe noodles. Because Neptune is now officially the furthest planet from the sun in our solar system.

Apparently we were laboring without a definition of “planet” all this time. I don’t remember having any difficulty with the subject in elementary science classes. In fact, I’m sure I’ve taken tests that contained questions assuming a definition the word. Hey — I want those tests re-audited! This may affect my academic performance in retrospect all the way up through college admission. Maybe I could have gotten into an ivy league school. I’ll sue!

Truly, I don’t understand what the fuss is about. This is not a surprise. Pluto doesn’t care. It’s unlikely that there are any life forms on the pla— oops, dwarf planet — who would care, as Pluto only has an atmosphere for 20 years every 248 years. It’s still out there, happily, ignorantly dancing with Charon, waving to us — “Don’t forget about me, schoolchildren of Earth! You haven’t seen the last of me yet!”

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