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Earth Attacks!
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According to the news, this is a big week for Pluto:
Despite being the farthest planet from Earth in our solar system, Pluto has come under attack from astronomers and may be about to lose its status in the battle.

Some 3,000 astronomers and scientists from around the world will meet in Prague this week to decide whether Pluto, discovered in 1930, measures up to the definition of a planet.

In defining for the first time what exactly a planet is, the International Astronomers Union (IAU) may be forced to downgrade Pluto's status, or add as many as 14 others.

When I was growing up I devoured all those easy to visualize descriptions of the planets and I knew the solar system like my back yard. If our house was the sun then Mercury was the bird bath, Jupiter was the barn and Pluto was a green apple that had fallen off the tree at the very end of the garden.

I not only knew the planets, and their relative positions and distances, I could tell you how many moons each had.

Today, thanks to decades of astronomical observation and space probes, scientists have a much clearer picture of the solar system, but I don't. I've lost track of all those proliferating moons. I'm not even sure which planets sport rings and which don't.

Science is constantly expanding our knowledge of the universe, but the more we learn about everything the more complicated it all looks. The explanations are comprehensible only to scientists. The truth is harder to grasp than our misconceptions.

Maybe that is one reason why religious fundamentalism, with its disdain for knowledge, has managed to get such a strong foothold in our educated society. As for poor Pluto, we (or rather science) already knows about more than a dozen celestial bodies in our solar backyard that are larger. One of the biggest, UB 313, discovered in 2003, has been nicknamed Xena after the character in the television show.

It's appropriate. I suppose, for an old Roman God to be shoved aside by a television character.

Pluto isn't entitled to much sympathy, in my opinion. Given its size and eccentric orbit it pretty clearly snuck into the Planet Club under false pretenses. Maybe they can make it an honorary planet, in recognition of its accomplishments, the same way people receive honorary degrees.

I just hope the scientists don't expand the definition of planet to include Pluto and all the other riff-raff loitering about in the Kuiper Belt. It was all I could do to memorize 9 planets.

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