Dead Planet Sketch

Poor old Pluto just can’t get a break.

First it’s demoted from a plant to a dwarf planet.

That’s not too bad. It’s no longer the Premiership, but at least it’s still a planet.

Then the International Astronomical Union announced that dwarf plants will in future be known as plutoids.

Pluto wasn’t easy to find.

Percival Lowell first predicted in 1905 that something out there would explain discrepancies in the movement of Neptune.

Lowell searched for the planet without success until his death in 1916, but it wasn’t until 1930 that a young astronomer called Clyde Tombaugh found the elusive body.

But there was a problem. Pluto was too small to explain Neptune’s orbit.

Sixty years later, after the Voyager 2 flyby, scientists redid their sums, and found Neptune was slightly smaller than they’d believed.

The new figures meant that Lowell’s original calculations, predicting where Pluto would be found, were based on a fallacy.

There just happened to be a small planet there by blind luck.

Scientists now believe there are many small bodies at the edge of the solar system – although so far only one – called Eris – has been found.

And to pluto becomes a verb, meaning to demote.

By Gerard Cunningham

Gerard Cunningham occupies his time working as a journalist, writer, sub-editor, blogger and podcaster, yet still finds himself underemployed.