Pluto's Demotion: What Will We Tell the Children?

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Life Lessons in Space

Mike Terenzoni, astronomy coordinator at Tucson, Arizona's Flandrau Science Center, said he also has always felt that Pluto didn't belong.

"When I look at Pluto in my telescope, I don't see a disk, no matter how big of a telescope I have. It just looks like a little star. When I look at all the other planets in the solar system, they look like planets," he said.

He likes Pluto, though, and he's been rooting for it to keep its planet status. And that's what he'll say to schoolkids during talks and tours.

"I want Pluto to be a planet. That's what I'll tell them," he said. "But wanting something doesn't make it so. And that's something kids should learn."

Al Bartell, a fifth-grade teacher in Trinity, Texas, called IAU's decision "a wonderful opportunity to teach students that science is a dynamic field and what seemed absolute at one point in time can easily be overturned."

"Mother Just Served Us Nothing!"

Not everyone is taking Pluto's demotion so well.

Jason Kottke operates the Weblog kottke.org and hosted a contest to replace the old mnemonic devices for remembering the planetary lineup.

He offered one of the best-known ones as a starting point: "My (Mercury) very (Venus) elegant (Earth) mother (Mars) just (Jupiter) served (Saturn) us (Uranus) nine (Neptune) pizzas (Pluto)."

The tone of the winning entries is mostly indignant.

"Most vexing experience, mother just served us nothing!" was a runner-up, submitted by contributor Bart Baxter.

One entry, by "Delia," is written from the viewpoint of U.S. astronomer Clyde Tombaugh, who discovered Pluto in 1930. "My vision, erased. Mercy! Just some underachiever now."

First place went to Josh Mishell for "My! Very educated morons just screwed up numerous planetariums."

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