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04/25/2018

World mourns Pluto’s plight

PRAGUE: It’s smaller than Earth’s moon, has a funky way of orbiting the sun, and lurks so far out on the fringes of the solar system that even the powerful Hubble space telescope has to squint to see it.

Still, a day after it was stripped of its status as a planet, many, including astronomers and schoolchildren, are missing Pluto.

The widow of astronomer Clyde Tombaugh, who discovered Pluto 76 years ago, says she is frustrated by the decision, but adds that Clyde would have understood. “I’m not heartbroken. I’m just shook up,” Patricia Tombaugh, 93, said in Las Cruces.

Clyde was 24 when he discovered Pluto while working at Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona, in 1930. Reacting to the International Astronomical Union’s decision, Walt Disney Company spokesman Donn Walker, speaking of the animated dog by the same name, said, “Pluto is taking this news in stride and we have no reason to believe he might bite an astronomer.”

In the words of 15-year-old Quinn Huebner, “It’s one less planet to memorize”. Huebner was visiting the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum, Washington, when he learned that Pluto was no longer a planet. However, Pluto’s demotion may spell confusion for learning the solar system.

“My Very Excellent Mother Just Sent Us Nine Pizzas.” This and variations on it has been ways millions of people memorized the names of the planets in the solar system.

Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto. After Pluto was reclassified as a ‘dwarf planet’, how’ll kids learn the planets? Some possibilities:

Major Volcanoes Erupt, Making Jolts, Shaking, Unsteadying Nerves.

Mary’s Violet Eyes Make Jack Stare Until Noticed.

My Very Exotic Mistress Just Showed up Nude (perhaps this one is for college lads).

The planetary change also spells trouble for science museums. The National Air and Space Museum, for example, has a popular song called “The Family of the Sun”, set to the tune of “The Farmer in the Dell”, that children love and which helps them learn the planets.

Spokesman Mike Marcus said a decision on rewriting it has not been made yet.

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