Monday, October 31, 2005

So Wise in the Ways of Science

So, the word on the street now is that Pluto has three moons, rather than the one that had previously (1978. This discovery that Pluto had a moon came as quite a blow to me, really shaking up my world view. All through grade school, junior high (no middle school for me), and high school, Pluto was one of three moonless planets. You come to count of such facts. Then, just a year out of high school, I find that, oh, what we've been telling you all these years about Pluto being moon-less just wasn't right. Suddenly I found myself having to question all of the truths I'd been taught, wondering just what value there is to all those years of education if they're going to start changing the facts as soon as you get out. You can just imagine how later finding that Neptune was sometimes beyond the orbit of Pluto affected me) been reported.

This discovery is cause for no small amount of excitement among Plutopian partisans, who have quite frankly been pretty aprehensive about the possibility that their beloved orb might be downgraded from its deservedly shaky planetary status. Though admittedly small as moons go, each estimated to be between 30 and 100 miles across, these additional satellites give the sometimes 8th and other times 9th farthest planet something of a leg up on old Earth which, as most of you probably know and many of the rest probably suspect, has but the one moon. For a little perspective, however, I have to point out that while other planets are compelled, whether by nature or law I couldn't say, to name their moons, earth's moon is known simply as "the moon." I don't think any other argument is needed to establish the primacy of our moon. And if we have the best moon, it stands to reason that we need have no worries about our status as a planet being challenged. Pluto, being about the size of Rhode Island (or something) needed something to reassure itself. Latching on to two new moons may be just what it needs to stay in the club.

There's your astronomy lesson for the night.
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