The solar system most of us grew up with included nine planets, with Mercury closest to the sun and Pluto at the outer edge. Then, in 2005, astronomer Mike Brown made the discovery of a lifetime: a tenth planet slightly bigger than Pluto. But instead of its resulting in one more planet being added to our solar system, Brown’s find ignited a firestorm of controversy that riled the usually sedate world of astronomy and launched him into the public eye. The debate culminated in the demotion of Pluto from real planet to the newly coined category of “dwarf” planet. Suddenly Brown was receiving hate mail from schoolchildren and being bombarded by TV reporters—all because of the discovery he had spent years searching for and a lifetime dreaming about.
Filled with both humor and drama, How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming is Mike Brown’s engaging first-person account of the most tumultuous year in modern astronomy—which he inadvertently caused. As it guides readers through important scientific concepts and inspires us to think more deeply about our place in the cosmos, it is also an entertaining and enlightening personal story: While Brown sought to expand our understanding of the vast nature of space, his own life was changed in the most immediate, human ways by love, birth, and death. A heartfelt and personal perspective on the demotion of everyone’s favorite farflung planet, How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming is the book for anyone, young or old, who has ever dreamed of exploring the universe—and who among us hasn’t?
This was the perfect antidote to the wimpy girl teenage angst that was my last fishbowl book.
This was a surprisingly easy read. If I hadn’t discovered that I could re-watch Doctor Who with my new Amazon Prime membership, I would have finished this in a couple of days.
(I regret nothing!)
The book went over all the events that lead up to the decision of the IAU (International Astronomical Union) to revoke Pluto’s planetary status. It was an interesting read that was also part biography.
I actually learned quite a bit. For instance, in the 1800’s, astronomers were constantly discovering “planets” then revoking that status down to asteroid. At one time we had a planet Ceres and a planet Pallas. They were two large bodies in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.
One of the events that led up to Pluto’s demise was the discovery of another planet beyond Pluto. It was slightly smaller and also had a moon. I think the best part of this is that they nicknamed the planet Xena.
Yes, nicknamed it after that Xena! What’s even better is that they nicknamed the moon Gabrielle.
How awesome would our solar system have been?!?!
But with the discovery of Xena, it started the question, what is a planet? What are the criteria for establishing planethood? After all, if Xena can’t be considered a planet, then technically, neither should Pluto.
After all the debates, and the discovery of two more large bodies out in the Kuiper belt, it all came down to a vote by the IAU and they voted that Xena, and therefore Pluto, could not be considered planets anymore.
Once all that was settled, Xena and Gabrielle got real names that conformed to the naming rules of the IAU. Ah well.
I didn’t think I would agree with why they demoted Pluto – after all it have been considered a planet since 1930. My parents and my grandparents had grown up with Pluto as a planet. But after the author went through everything, it does make sense.