You remember. We all do. Terms like dwarf planet assaulted our ears; school children wrote hate mail to scientists; the public gave attention to NASA not seen since the moon landing. The season of outrage and mourning has still yet to falter; it exists in novelty t-shirts with “When I was a kid we had NINE planets” written in blocky letters. In students still learning acronyms for planetary order that end in p instead of n. In Twitter accounts, Pinterest boards, and Facebook pages advocating for a reversal of the decision.
We simply will not let Pluto die.
I was twelve when Pluto was deemed less than a planet and, like most everyone else, took the news personally. I’d since forgotten, but recently I noticed a book on the shelves and knew I had to read it. “You better have a good excuse, buddy,” I muttered. The title? How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming.
The book’s author is Mike Brown, and the title is fitting—he is, in simplest terms, the reason Pluto is no longer among the elite. The founder of what would have been our tenth planet, Brown discovered that Pluto is—gasp—not nearly as unique as we’d thought. In fact, it’s much closer to an asteroid lost in a belt than a planet circling the edge of our galaxy.
Let me tell you what this book is not. It’s not a list of scientific facts and figures. It’s not a history of astronomy or dictionary of NASA terminology. It’s not a bash on the power of media in the scientific community or even a plea for understanding.
This book is simply Brown’s story in relation to Pluto. And honestly? It’s beautiful. Brown talks about the first time he saw Saturn through a telescope. He discusses the ungraspable splendor of the night sky. He walks us through the burning desire to discover more of what’s out there, through the grueling process of checking for new spots of white on thousands of photographed plates of sky. He captures the overwhelming joy of looking at something no one has ever seen before. And, in a calmed, controlled voice, he explains why we all—himself included—have to let Pluto go.
If you love looking at the night sky, if you’re willing to love Pluto in a different way, if you’re interested at all in discoveries and growth and knowledge, check it out. You won’t be disappointed.
Thanks for reading. –Autumn
How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming is available in the library catalog or as an eBook through Overdrive. For more on eBooks, check out http://ofpl.info/ebooks-downloadables or connect with a member of the staff.