July 12th, 2015

The lovely Hilary

Pluto is for geeks

Humans, eyes tearing, looking up into the night sky saw wandering stars meandering around in the darkness, and they counted them, prayed to them, reached out with their songs and dreams and satellites. Heaven, however, wasn't orderly, as neat as we would like it. If gravity and the laws Newton gave us were to be believed there was something beyond the vail, lurking in the shadow, a shy little boy tugging at our pant leg.

To see that far we needed something far more powerful than telescopes of polished glass and mirrors. Pluto was to prove it would be the rebel, the planet of its own rules.

We needed Math.

Pluto was discovered in a equation.

Something was pulling on the other planets, something with enough mass said Lowell, back in the days before an observatory was named after him. So a guy, Powell was the name sewn in his boxers, and another fellow who was called W. H. by his friends calculated when and where to look and low and behold another guy, Tombaugh if you believed the red embroidery on his lab coat, squinted through the spiffy new telescope at the new Lowell Observatory, and saw Pluto.

It wasn't Pluto until a little girl, Venitia Burney, suggested to her grandfather that it should be named after The lord of the underworld. Gramps sent a post card to the observatory and Pluto was a planet.

Now there's a problem. Pluto is a precocious planet. Pluto didn't shrink, but eggheads found lots of Pluto sized rocks, so instead of having many more planets, we downgraded Pluto to Dwarf, or as they prefer, little planet.

Ah, but tricky Pluto has tricks indeed because a dwarf planet doesn't have the mass needed to play with Neptune and Uranus, so how can such a little planet mess with such big boys?

Pluto has a girlfriend! A Charon, a moon 1/7 the size of Pluto. Their orbits locked so they face each other, they Doe se doe around the Sun, teasing their neighbors as they go.

And all this is 4.67 billion miles away. That's million with a B! The probe we sent? Flying at a brisk 30,000 miles an hour or New York to Paris in 8 minutes.

And it's still all conjecture. We won't know until the probe gets there what else Pluto has up his sleeve!

Stay tuned, Pluto might be a planet after all!

  • Current Music
    Ill never be your beast of burden
  • Tags