25 August 2006

The Planet Pluto 1930-2006

The Planet Pluto sadly passed away this week, aged 76.

Pluto hanging around with CharonPluto, long believed to be the ninth planet of the Solar System, was discovered in 1930 at the Lowell observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona by one Walt Disney, who caused consternation among the whole astronomical community when he claimed the planet was actually a small, brown dog that orbited Mickey Mouse. Following Mr Disney's removal to a well-known rest home for the insane ("Hollywood"), Pluto was finally identified as a small planet circling the sun at the very edge of the solar system. Observations over the next 70 years revealed it to be a small and desolate location almost wholly lacking in atmosphere, leading many to confuse it with Leicester.

During it's 76 years in the solar system, Pluto was an enthusiastic - some might say over-enthusiastic - planet, trying to draw attention to itself with its jauntily slanted orbit, attempts to sneak up on the sun while Neptune's back was turned and its party trick of turning its somewhat sparse atmosphere into ice every time it approached the solar system's fringes. As the years went by, Pluto also began to hang out with other, less reputable astronomical bodies including Ceres and the leather-bookmark-skirted Xena. Eventually the other planets decided they had no alternative but to pull the plug on their brash companion, particularly after its failure to make it either as a caramel-and-nougat-based chocolate bar or gain an entry into Gustav Holst's Planets Suite.

The Planet Pluto was quietly buried on Thursday along with its moons Charon, Nix and Hydra, in a moving ceremony attended by the remaining members of the solar system, marred only when Neptune and Mercury kept calling Uranus's name out and giggling.