Poor Pluto

Spring break is creeping up on us, so I know many of you are working on putting your spring break reading lists together. Today I have two books about everyone’s favorite Disney dog and former planet. (Although, just to be clear, the planet is named for the Roman god of the Underworld and not the Disney dog.)

Anyway, when I was growing up we memorized the order of the planets with, “My very earnest  mother just sent us nine pickles.” As of 2005, the pickles were gone and mother sent nine…I don’t know what. Pluto was official demoted to “dwarf planet” and our solar system was reduced to just 8 planets. These two books tell the story of Pluto’s fall from the big leagues.

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Some people credit (blame?) American Museum of Natural History astrophysicist and pop icon Neil DeGrasse Tyson for Pluto’s demise. In his book The Pluto Files (also available on mp3 disc) he talks about a decision they made at the museum to group the planets together by type, which led to Pluto’s isolation and to a remark from a little kid, overheard by a New York Times reporter that became a headline. The book explores why people, particularly Americans, were so upset with Pluto’s change in status. Bonus for the book…he includes pictures of the hate mail he got from 2nd graders.

In How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming, astronomer Mike Brown recounts his discovery of a 10th planet, Eris, which was just a bit bigger than Pluto. However, his discovery started the scientific debate that led to Pluto’s reclassification and the category of “dwarf planet.” I haven’t had  a chance to read this one yet (and if no one checks it out, it may be on my spring break reading list), but the blurb on the back also promises hate mail from school children!

Brown’s book is also included on the 2014 Outstanding Books for the College Bound list.

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