Ok, Pluto fans. They evicted Pluto from our solar system's planetary pantheon, but a NASA mission launched in 2006 is nearing the dwarf planet with its cameras. We'll soon have photos of Pluto that are much more high resolution than we currently have, which means scientists will need names for all the new geographic features. The Our Pluto site has been set up to help suggest and vote on names for these features. Naming themes include historic explorers, travelers to the underworld, and scientists and engineers. Go vote! (via slate)
Matt Webb of BERG shares some of his favorite sci-fi about each of the planets. And the Sun (sort of)...no solar system sci-fi list would be complete without a mention of Sunshine.
In 2057, the Sun is dying, and the Earth is freezing. So the ship Icarus 2 goes on a mission to reignite it with a massive bomb. This is the movie Sunshine, and if you get a chance to see it, watch it on a big screen. The crew themselves watch the Sun close-up, awestruck, from a view-port the exact dimensions of a movie screen, so the Sun fills your picture too and you spend half the film bathing in powerful yellow light. Like some kind of church.
Although I didn't, Matt, appreciate the diss of Pluto. Never forget, my friend.
The Natural History Museum got a lot of hate mail from children when they demoted Pluto from planet to a resident of the Kuiper Belt, including this one from a fellow named Will:
All nine of the planets in our solar system are represented in these wonderful posters by Ross Berens.
Pluto. Never forget.
Meg bought Ollie this ball a couple of weeks ago. It's got all the planets of the solar system on it, plus the Sun. But no Pluto. That's right, it's barely been two years since Pluto was demoted to dwarf planet status and the toy manufacturers have already made the adjustment.
It saddens me that Ollie has to grow up in a world where Pluto isn't considered a planet, although I take comfort that his textbooks probably won't be updated by the time he's in school. In the meantime, I've Sharpied Pluto onto his ball.
One ball at a time people, that's how we win.
Is "dwarf planet" an ironym? "Pluto is a dwarf planet, but we are now faced with the absurdity that a dwarf planet is not a planet." (thx, adriana)
After hearing the news that Pluto had been demoted from its full planetary status in the solar system, Meg and I decided to hold a contest to find a new mnemonic device for the planets, replacing the old "My very elegant mother just served us nine pizzas" (among others). The mnemonic could work for either the new 8 planet line-up, the 8 major + 3 dwarf planets, or the old 9 planet arrangement in protest of Pluto's demotion. Thanks to everyone who entered; we received a bunch of great entries and it was hard to choose a winner. But first place goes to Josh Mishell for:
My! Very educated morons just screwed up numerous planetariums.
Josh's protest mnemonic is memorable, topical, and goes beyond a simple description of the shameful proceedings in Prague to real-world consequences. As the winning entrant, Josh will receive a print from HistoryShots...we're suggesting Race to the Moon. Congratulations to Josh.
Now, some runners-up. These came very close to winning:
Many Very Earnest Men Just Snubbed Unfortunate Ninth Planet (Dave Child)
"My vision, erased. Mercy! Just some underachiever now." (Delia, as spoken by Pluto discoverer Clyde Tombaugh)
Most vexing experience, mother just served us nothing! (Bart Baxter)
There were several entries that referenced vegetarianism and veganism; this haiku by Evan Norris was my favorite:
most vegans envy
my jovian silhouette,
Update: A reader noted that Evan's haiku incorrectly swaps the positions of Neptune and Uranus. Happily, "usually not" works just as well. (thx, peter)
The honorary mention for lack of sophistication goes to Andrea Harner and Jonah Peretti for:
Molesting Very Excitedly, Michael Jackson Sucks Underage Nipples
Best foreign language award goes to Bernardo Carvalho for his Portuguese mnemonic (remember, "Earth" is something like "Terra" in Portuguese so the t fits. And we'll ignore the e too...):
minha velha, traga meu jantar: sopa, uva, nozes e pão (Translated: "Old woman, bring me dinner: soup, grapes, nuts and bread")
And here are some of the best of the rest:
Mollifying voluminous egos means judiciously striking underappreciated named planetoid (Bruce Turner)
Most Virgins Eventually Marry Jocks So Unscrupulously Naughty (Aaron Arcello)
Morons Violate Every Map Just So UFOs Navigate Poorly (Sean Tevis)
My violin emits minimal joy since union nixed Pluto (C.D.)
Maximum velocity earns many joyous shouts, unless not planetary (Scott Tadman)
Thanks again to everyone who entered!
Boo, astronomers, boo!!!
Astronomers meeting in the Czech capital have voted to strip Pluto of its status as a planet. About 2,500 experts were in Prague for the International Astronomical Union's (IAU) general assembly. Astronomers rejected a proposal that would have retained Pluto as a planet and brought three other objects into the cosmic club. Pluto has been considered a planet since its discovery in 1930 by the American Clyde Tombaugh.
Screw this, what about all of Pluto's mindshare? Now we're going to need a new mnemonic device.
Update: Meg and I came up with a mnew mnemonic device in protest of the Pluto decision:
Man, very erroneous! Moronic jerks shouldn't uninclude neat Pluto.
And you know what that means! Mnemonic device contest! Send in your best mnew mnemonic device for remembering the planets (either for the old 9 planets or the new 8 planets) and you'll be entered to win an as-yet-unspecified prize. All entries must be sent with the subject line "Pluto mnemonic device contest" and must be received by 5pm ET today. I'll publish the winners sometime soon. Contest update: Ok, pencils down, it's 5pm and the contest has concluded. Judging will take place soon and the still-as-yet-unspecified prize will be awarded directly following.