Pluto’s declassification as a planet may have drawn some disappointed murmurs from the grown-ups, but the pain is apparently even more real for a bunch of little school kids.
In his book, “The Pluto Files,” celebrity astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson showcases his collection of hate mail from third graders who were disappointed at Pluto’s reclassification in 2006 to a dwarf planet. The little Pluto fans demanded the immediate reinstatement of their beloved chunk of rock back into the official roster of the solar system’s planets.
The letters start as far back as 2000, when Tyson, as director of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History, New York, omitted Pluto from a new solar system exhibit because he didn’t consider it a planet.
Seven-year-old Will Gamot immediately noticed the missing exhibit and shot the director a letter with a helpful illustration (see below). Gamot wrote: “You are missing planet Pluto. Please make a model of it. This is what it looks like. It is a planet.”
In 2006, The International Astronomical Union endorsed Tyson’s position and yanked Pluto’s title as the solar system’s ninth planet. Scientists had realized that the distant Kuiper belt where Pluto resides probably has dozens of large icy objects, some of which may rival Pluto in size; rather than adding more and more planets to our list, researchers opted to create the dwarf planet category. This prompted howls of protest from other kids.
In her letter to Tyson, Madeline Trost of Plantation, Florida worried: “Do people live on Pluto? If there are people who live there they won’t exist.” She then demands a response from Tyson. “Please write back,” she implores. “But not in cursive because I can’t read in cursive.”
You can browse through an entire sideshow of what the kids had to say here; but here’s a sampling of their irritation at the whole affair.
The Intersection: That Mean, Mean Anti-Pluto Guy
DISCOVER: A Death in the Solar System
Bad Astronomy: Pluto’s big Hill to climb
Bad Astronomy: The Moon that went up a Hill but came down a planet
Image: The Pluto Files