Planet Clyde

by wjw on August 28, 2006

The Battle of Pluto is over. But not the war, one hopes. The new decision is lame, the sort that can only be reached by a committee.

The IAU has declared that Pluto is now something called a “dwarf planet,” along with Ceres and Xena. Charon remains a satellite. I can’t seem to find out where Sedna and Quaoar fit into the new definition, but it may be that we need only find only two more Kuiper Belt Objects to give the solar system a full compliment of Seven Dwarfs.

The term “Plutonian” was rejected in favor of “dwarf planet,” a major mistake in my view. “Plutonian” is a way cooler term.

Cooler still would be Kathy’s idea of calling them “Tombaugh Objects.” Clyde deserves it. Let’s start singing this meme at once.

It should be pointed out that I’m completely in favor of a more colorful solar system. If I could, I’d restore Uranus’ original name, which was George. (You can look it up.)

Another issue is what new mnemonic to teach children in order to learn the names of the planets.

Charlie Pierce, on NPR’s news quiz “Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me,” suggested “Many Virgins Enter My Jacuzzi Swooning Uncontrollably Nightly.”

Amy Dickenson’s suggestion was “Most Very Eligible Men Just Sleep, Until Now.”

Whereas Adam Felber offered, “My Volkswagon Emits Mick Jagger Songs Until Noon.”

If you have any suggestions of your own, please feel free to post them here.

Pat August 28, 2006 at 1:16 pm

I love the name “Tombaugh Objects” but “Plutonians” has a neater ring to it.

As for “icy dwarf planets” … I told one nitpicker on another list that if this be the case, I share my house with two dwarf mountain lions.

I do hope they keep the name “Xena” for the former candidate for Planet 10 (and, of course, Gabrielle for her satellite. Joxur for the second one if they ever find one.

Anonymous August 28, 2006 at 7:41 pm

I used to work in the Clyde Tombaugh Planetarium in Alamogordo, N.M., and I actually met Tombaugh, so I feel rather slighted that his great discovery has been treated so badly. When he discovered Pluto, he was essentially a Kansas farm boy hired as an observing assistant at Lowell Observatory, and professional astronomers were shocked — shocked, I say! — that someone without a Ph.D. made such an important discovery. Some actually attempted to take credit away from him. These and many other exciting stories from the life of Clyde Tombaugh are featured in the biography “Clyde Tombaugh: Discoverer of Planet Pluto” by David H. Levy.


Patricia Mathews September 19, 2006 at 2:03 pm

Walter – I wanted to tell you how very much I’ve been enjoying your trip to Turkey. Marvelous! Did you know you have the makings of a book here? Or at the very least an article in, say,Harpers?

Suggestion about Pluto et al — not original with me! — since its an order of magnitude larger than Ceres, with which it’s been lumped, create a category called “Giant dwarf planets.” Or “Mildly gravitationally challenged planets,” Ceres being a “Severely gravitationally challenged planet.”

bush November 29, 2006 at 11:01 am

WTF? Are you really serious?

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