August 24, 2006

Pluto, 1930-2006. R.I.P.


Boston Herald
Scientists Rock Pluto’s World with Planet Diss

By Marie Szaniszlo and Jenna Wolf


In a world of uncertainty, some things seem immutable: Come what may, you assure yourself, there will always be four seasons, Seven Dwarfs and nine planets.
And then some scientist goes and messes with your universe.
Yesterday, the International Astronomical Union adopted historic new galactic guidelines and unceremoniously stripped chilly, faraway Pluto of its planetary status.
“It’s sad, isn’t it?” said David Charbonneau, professor of astronomy at Harvard University. “Everbody sympathizes with Pluto. Pluto is the underdog, the little guy fighting to belong to the club.”
Pluto got the boot because it didn’t meet the union’s new rules, which say a planet must orbit the sun, be large enough to assume a nearly round shape, and must clear the neighborhood around its orbit.
That disqualifies Pluto, whose oblong orbit overlaps Neptune’s. The bottom line: The solar system has been downsized to eight planets from the traditional nine.
“I don’t know how to handle it. It kind of sounds like I just lost my job,” said Patricia Tombaugh, the 93-year-old widow of Pluto discoverer Clyde Tombaugh. “But I understand science is not something that just sits there. It goes on.”
The Elite Eight planets are now Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune.
Pluto and objects like it will be “dwarf planets,” prompting swift reaction from the world of Disney, home of Pluto the cartoon dog.
“Although we think it’s DOPEY that Pluto has been downgraded . . . which has made some people GRUMPY and others just SLEEPY, we are not BASHFUL in saying we would be HAPPY if Disney’s Pluto would join us as an eighth dwarf,” the Seven Dwarfs said through a Disney spokeswoman. “We think this is just what the DOC ordered and is nothing to SNEEZE at.”
"I’m not giving up on Pluto,” said Cambridge-based astrologer and Scorpio Joyce Levine. Scorpios are ruled by Pluto, which is associated with Hades or the God of the Underworld. “People don’t have to worry,” Levine said. “Just leave it to the astrologers, and we’ll take care of interpretation.”

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