Friday, August 25, 2006

Shades of Mr. Christopher...

So, Pluto has been deplanetized by the International Astronomical Union as of Thursday, August 24, 2006. There had been some last minute politicking over the redefinition of planet (that's what this is all about) that would have actually expanded the category to clearly embrace not only Pluto but Ceres (the biggest asteroid) and Xena (a faraway, just-discovered body*) as well, but in the end the conservative forces won out and and after IAU Resolution 5A passed, we were down to just eight planets in our system. To add insult to injury, an additional resolution to name the category of bodies to which Pluto has been consigned "plutonian objects" failed in favor of the designation "trans-neptunian."

Poor Pluto. It was always my favorite planet, spinning out there so far away in space, the warm sun a mere bright speck in the sky. I liked the idea that after the four smaller terrestrial planets came the four gas giants, and then little Pluto, messing up the curve like the exchange student in French class. I liked that it didn't seem to fit in, and yet there it was, with all the other cool kids in the solar system.

Pluto was a great destination in science-fiction and in comics: even with a spaceship, it was often a long haul to Pluto. And Plutonians themselves were usually cool - in more ways than one. As a matter of fact, I can't think about Pluto without picturing this guy:

If memory serves, he came to Earth on some sort of mission, got amnesia, and couldn't figure out why he was so hot all the time. Then he remembered - he was from Pluto! Of course!**

So, the IAU may have kicked Pluto off the roster, and countless posters and textbooks will have to be changed across the country and around the world, but we'll still have the ninth planet, in all its comic-bookish incarnations, to keep us warm cool.

*Which I just realized would have described Lucy Lawless in 1995.

**I also remember this comic as a particularly egregious example of the great cover art/not-so-great interior dissonance. While this scene does indeed appear in the story, even the Infantino/Sachs interior art pales next to this cool Kubert drawing.

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