I’m sure many people are now far along in the healing process after the sudden shock of Pluto being stripped of its planetary status in our solar system.
You know that something is up when Facebook, the barometer of modern society (at least for those within the education system), has a group called ‘When I was your age, Pluto was a planet,’ reaching nearly half a million members within a matter of days.
All right, enough about Facebook and more about Pluto. Where once there were nine, now there are eight.
Even though Pluto didn’t meet the new planetary rule, which states that not only must a planet orbit around the sun and be round, but it must also ‘clear the neighborhood around its orbit’ (leaving poor Pluto biting the dust as its orbit overlaps Neptune’s), the ex-ninth planet is iconic in its own way as a reminder of our childhoods.
For most of us, Pluto has adorned various classroom posters, textbooks and dioramas from primary school up to our days here at UC Irvine. When we were kids, who among us really knew the cosmogony of the solar system, except that we lived on Earth, the sun was one hot burning ball of energy and Pluto was the littlest, farthest and last planet in the planetary queue?
Though Pluto will cease to exist in the minds of later generations once a replacement planet is found to fill the ninth spot, it will never be forgotten. Pluto will be remembered in pop culture.
In mythology, Pluto is associated with the ruler of the underworld, Hades.
For those who follow astrology, Pluto is the ruling planet of the sign Scorpio.
And for the superstitious, the 1930 discovery of Pluto simultaneously occurred with the rise of fascism and Stalinism.
If you search for ‘Pluto’ in Google images, the first picture to pop up is not the icy isolated orb, but the beloved best friend of Mickey Mouse, Pluto the dog. Pluto first made his appearance in the 1930s cartoon ‘The Chain Gang’ as Rover. He was quickly dubbed Pluto after the discovery of the planet. Just as Pluto the dog has been associated with our childhood, so now will Pluto the planet.
Pluto has made its presence known in other television series such as ‘Futurama,’ ‘Dr. Who,’ ‘Aqua Teen Hunger Force’ and Japan’s ‘Sailor Moon.’
Musicians have transcribed it into songs such as in Bjork’s ‘Pluto’ in which the ex-planet is used to convey the cycle of life and death.
The planet’s eerie position has been the basis of countless science fiction novels throughout the 20th century.
It is only now that we truly appreciate the planet after having overlooked its significance in our culture. It’s also quite hard to erase the thought of Pluto as a planet, though the International Astronomical Union deems that it no longer is one.
So while scientists argue over whether to replace Pluto with other astral land masses such as ‘Xena,’ ‘Gabrielle,’ ‘Santa’ or even ‘Easterbunny,’ Pluto the planet will forever live on via the entertainment universe.
R.I.P. Pluto the planet (Feb. 18, 1930 – Aug. 24, 2006).
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