Elizabeth Scripturient (the delinquent, ecumenical (hermionesviolin) wrote,
Elizabeth Scripturient (the delinquent, ecumenical

Percival Lowell

So, Googling this morning I see Mars is the Google Doodle theme, but hovering tells me the Alt text is "Percival Lowell." [He was born this date, 1855.] He studied Mars? Who knew? I always associate him with Pluto.

I had almost YSI-ed Christine Lavin's "Planet X" over the weekend to send to Eric because Pluto was the answer to one of Friday's Millionaire questions so I (of course) got to talking about the Christine Lavin song, which (of course) no one else was familiar with.

In Arizona at the turn of the century,
astromathematician Percival Lowell
was searching for what he called "Planet X"
'cause he knew deep down in his soul
that an unseen gravitational presence
meant a new planet spinning in the air
joining the other eight already known
circling our sun up there.

But Percival Lowell died in 1916
his theory still only a theory
'til 1930, when Clyde Tombaugh
in a scientific query
discovered "Planet X"
3.7 billion miles from our sun
a smallish ball of frozen rock,
methane and nitrogen.

It joined Mercury, Venus,
Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune
our solar system's newest neighbor
two-thirds the size of our moon
a tiny, barely visible speck
Cold! Minus 440 below.
Not exactly Paradise,
they named the planet Pluto

That same year, 1930, Walt Disney
debuted his own Pluto as well
but a cartoon dog with the very same name as the CEO of Hell
was not your normal Disney style
most figured he was riding the coattails
of Pluto-mania sweeping the land
(not unlike our modern love for dolphins and whales)

For the next five decades mysterious Pluto
captivated our minds
as late as 1978 its own moon Charon
was seen for the very first time
but now telescopes and satellites
and computer calculations
say that Pluto may not be a planet at all,
creating great consternation

(Some scientists say)
That Pluto is a "trans-Neptunian interloper"
swept away by an unknown force
or a remnant of a wayward comet
somehow sucked off course
others say that Pluto is an asteroid
in the sun's gravitational pull
but if you ask Clyde Tombaugh
he'll tell you "That's all 'bull'."

"I get hundreds of letters from kids every year." he says,
"It's Pluto the planet they love.
It's not Pluto the comet,
It's not Pluto the asteroid
they wonder about above."
And at the International Astronomical Union Working Group
For Planetary System Nomenclature
They too say that Pluto is a planet
reinforcing Clyde Tombaugh's view of nature.

Norwegian Kaare Aksnes,
professor at the Theoretical Astrophysics Institute
He too says that Pluto is a planet
and a signficant one, to boot
but at the Unversity of Colorado
astronomer Larry Esposito
says "If Pluto were discovered today,
it would not be a planet. End of discussion. Finito."

He says that it was not spun off from solar matter
like the other eight planets we know.
By every scientific measurement we have
is Pluto a planet? No!
and now 20 astronomy textbooks
refer to Pluto as less than a planet
I guess if Pluto showed up at a planet convention
the bouncer at the door might have to ban it.

St. Christopher is looking down on all this
and he says, "Pluto, I can relate.
When I was demoted from sainthood
I gotta tell you little buddy,
it didn't feel real great"
and Scorpios look up in dismay
because Pluto rules their sign.
Is now reading their daily Horoscope
just a futile waste of time?

It takes 247 earth years
for Pluto to circle our sun.
It's tiny and it's cold
but of all heavenly bodies
it's Clyde Tombaugh's favorite one.
He's 90 now and works every day
in Las Cruces, New Mexico
determined to maintain the planetary status
of his beloved Pluto.

But how are we going to deal with it
if science comes up with the proof
that Pluto was never a planet.
How do we handle this truth?
As the Ph.D's all disagree
we don't know yet who's wrong or who's right
but wherever you are, whatever you are,
Pluto, we know you're out there tonight.

And in the year 2003
you're going to see
the NASA Pluto Express
fly by and take pictures
of your way cool surface
to send to this web page address:
h t t p colon slash slash d o s x x dot colorado dot edu slash
plutohome dot h t m l

You've got your own web page!
For a little guy,
you've made quite a splash!

Yes, at the turn of the 20th century
astromathematician Percival Lowell
in his quest for "Planet X"
started this ball to roll,
but at the end of the 20th Century
we think he may have been a little off base
so we look at the sky
and wonder what new surprises
await us in outer space.
We look at the sky and we wonder . . . . .
Tags: issues: planets

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