How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming
Everybody’s favorite runt planet was kicked out of the solar system back in mid 2006. The International Astronomical Union (IAU) shocked the entire world by abruptly altering the time honored 9 planet solar system that second graders had been learning about for more than 70 years. The interesting part is that this hacking of the cutest little planet was not the result of a bunch of drunk astronomers with nothing better to do than cause children (and some adults) around the world to cry. It was precipitated by several astonishing discoveries by, Mike Brown, a scientist at Cal Tech. Brown became the first person to discover a new planet in 150 years and he then proceeded to repeat this three more times. One of the bodies that he discovered was at least as big as Pluto. All three were in the same orbital plane as Pluto (which is different that that of Earth and the other seven planets), and encrusted with the same material (frozen methane) as our favorite littlest planet. This touched off a series of arguments among astronomers that eventually culminated in the ouster of Pluto due to the fact that it had far less in common with the other planets in the solar system than it did with a bunch of bodies in a separate astronomical region known as the Kuiper Belt.
The story of how the new planets were discovered and the ensuing series of controversies and intrigue combine to form one of the most interesting stories in modern science. Mike Brown describes the day to day science of astronomical discovery and the politics involved in ways that make for a story as riveting as any spy thriller. Along the way the author teaches readers a good amount of astronomy and explains the scientific process behind the discovery of objects at the far reaches of our solar system. This is a fun read and will entertain science geeks and history buffs alike; each will learn something eye opening about our little neighborhood in the universe. Brown provides a front row seat to the events that led to one of the most astonishing changes in how we define our solar system. In this charming little book, Brown shows that new scientific discoveries can result in changes that are often surprising, and even a little upsetting, and he bravely maintains that we have to take the good with the bad and be honest about what we have found in order to move forward.