The Sun's Shadow

Stumbling to find a light switch in the dark

Pluto Is Not The First Planet We Lost…

I was reading through yahoo news and came across the on going saga of Pluto our former last planet in the solar system. Pluto has again been re-classified as now a Plutoid, it had been called a dwarf planet I believe all dwarf planets are now to be called Plutoids. Science has had to make changes like this before and infact this is not first time we “lost” a planet, more on that later, first I wanted to point out a few of the choice quotes from the linked article.

“I think it’s a planet. But me and my friends, we talk about it sometimes and we go back and forth,” said Natalie Browning, 9, sitting in a park in Manhattan with her family. “Right now, I’m not 100 percent. I’m just 75 percent” sure that Pluto is a planet.

Natalie’s mom, Bobbie Browning, said, “You’ve got kids with textbooks saying that Pluto is part of the solar system and a planet, and teachers have to say it isn’t [a planet].”

Yes, the text books are now out of date, and all kids should be given the proper information.

“Students who have just learned about the concept of dwarf planets must now be taught the new concept of plutoid,” said Janis Milman, who teaches earth science at Thomas Stone High School in Maryland. “This will lead to confusion in the classroom and resistance to learning the new terms, because the students will question, why learn something that might change again in a year or so?”

Wow, so we are not teaching children science is provisional? Pluto was not arbirarily re-classified, the point is Pluto doesn’t fit as a planet in the way the other planets do, and if we include Pluto as a planet then we are going to also need to include other objects in the solar system as planets too… as noted by the title of the post Pluto is not the first planet to have its planet designation reassigned.

“Time has always been taken in the classroom to ponder the origin of Pluto. When Pluto became a dwarf planet, along with Eris and Ceres, it made it easier to explain why an object of Pluto’s small stature could be classified,” high-school teacher Milman said. “Now we will just need to teach them more new definitions.”

Milman added that “dwarf planets” is an easier term for students to grasp compared with plutoids. “Objects of Pluto, Eris and Ceres’ size are too small to be called planets so they were called dwarf planets. That was easier for the students to understand,” she said.

This teacher got it exactly right she gets a GOLD STAR, for an extra one get them to understand Plutoids!

“My fourth graders still consider Pluto a planet,” said Bev Grueber, a science teacher at North Bend Elementary in Nebraska. “We do extensive oral reports on the planets to meet a state standard, and everyone jumps for joy when they get Pluto. Last year, I left Pluto out of the draw and they asked where it was, so they still consider it a planet regardless of what the space scientists tell us the definition of that planet is.”

Wrong and Ms. Grueber you need to explain the situation better to your students, allowing them to persist in a false notion is doing them a disservice.

I could go on here but what’s the point in cherry picking quotes I think you get my point here, science is provisional and needs to change as we get better more accurate information and should always continue to do so.

At one point there was another planet between Mars and Jupiter… Ceres its now a dwarf planet likely soon to be a Plutoid and by far the largest object in the asteroid belt. At the time of it discovery it in the 19th century it was considered a planet it wasn’t until 50 years after it discovery when scientist began to discover large asteroids the classification of Ceres was challenged and changed to dwarf Planet. This is the nature of science to refine our understanding, challenge our assumptions and correct or adjust what needs to be corrected. It happened to Ceres and it also happened to Pluto.

I grew up with Pluto we all did, I get it I liked it too my Solar Quest game is no longer accurate but hey science isn’t made possible by our likes and dislikes it is where the evidence leads us… and unfortunately for Pluto one of these things isn’t like the other…


June 19, 2008 - Posted by | Astronomy, Education, Science | , ,

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