The Rise and Fall of America’s Favorite Planet
Gathered here in one place is a record of Pluto’s rise and fall from planethood, given by way of media accounts, public forums, cartoons, and letters I received from disgruntled school children, their teachers, strongly opinionated adults, and colleagues.
In August 2006, the International Astronomical Union voted Pluto out of planethood. Far from the sun, tiny, and eccentric in orbit, it’s a wonder Pluto has any fans. Yet during the mounting debate over Pluto’s status, Americans rallied behind the extraterrestrial underdog. The year of Pluto’s discovery, Disney created an irresistible pup by the same name, and, as one NASA scientist put it, Pluto was
discovered by an American for America. Pluto is entrenched in our cultural, patriotic view of the cosmos, and Neil deGrasse Tyson is on a quest to discover why.
Only Tyson can tell this story: he was involved in the first exhibits to demote Pluto, and, consequently, Pluto lovers have freely shared their opinions with him, including endless hate mail from third graders. In his typically witty way, Tyson explores the history of planet classification and America’s obsession with the “planet” that’s recently been judged a dwarf.