e-mail to my Niece and my Grand-Nieces and Grand-Nephew in Florida:
Which Smart Grand-Niece knew about the new mnemonic for the new planets? Well, National Geo hired Lisa Loeb to turn it into a song, and here's the pretty new song for
Also nice photo of smart 10-year-old Maryn Smith who thought up the mnemonic.
Neil deGrasse Tyson, who was in charge of the big astronomy conference that changed the Old Wrong 9 Planets into the New Right 11 Planets said he was astonished at how angry ordinary people were about the change to their beloved Solar System. He never imagined people could get downright hot under the collar about astronomy. He never imagined anyone would ever know who he was, but men and women would stop him on the sidewalk in NYC (he runs the Hayden Planetarium) and yell at him about downgrading Pluto to a Dwarf Planet.
Pluto's name is also the invention of an 11-year-old English girl, who's still around -- Venetia Katherine Douglas Phair (née Burney), born in 1919.
Hmmm I'm preparing a blog post about all this, so here's some images the kids might enjoy. There's an artist's rendition of far-off new planet Eris, and its moon Dysnomia -- Eris was the goddess of discord, and her daughter Dysnomia was the goddess of lawlessness. That's a little joke from the planet's discoverer. Originally he wanted to name the planet Xena, 'cause he liked the TV show Xena: Warrior Princess, and the actress who played Xena was Lucy Lawless.
There's also a cool photo of the other new planet, Ceres, from the Hubble Space Telescope.
a. Postage stamp of Clyde Tombaugh, discoverer (in 1930) of Pluto
b. Mike Brown, leader of the Mount Palomar telescope team that discovered Eris, the guy who wanted to name it
c. Xena, played by Lucy Lawless
d. Planet Eris, its moon Dysnomia right above it, and the Sun far, far, far away (artist's rendition -- we haven't sent any robot probes to Eris' neighborhood yet)
e. Katherine Burney, who named Pluto. It's NOT named for the Disney dog -- that's the other way around, Mickey named the dog for the famous new (in 1930) planet. Tombaugh liked the name because PL hints at Percival Lowell, the guy who built the Arizona observatory where Tombaugh found Pluto.
f. Maryn Smith, the "Magic Carpet" girl
g. Eris, an Athenian painting from around 520 BC -- notice that the Goddess of Discord seems to be smiling, or smirking, something like that. She started the whole Trojan War.
h. Ceres snapped by Hubble.
i. A sketch of Ceres' orbit by the great mathematician Gauss from around 1801. An Italian had found Ceres in his telescope, but then lost it again, everybody guessed forever, it's small and dark and is in the middle of the Asteroid Belt -- a big floating junkyard. Gauss invented the math that predicted where Ceres would be at any time, a Very Big Deal in all subsequent astronomy.
j. Some German paper money with Gauss on it.
k. Gauss' equations for Ceres' orbit. It's a geometry argument, but I have utterly no idea what the heck it means.
Let me know if you like the song and are memorizing it! This will be on the Quiz! Oh, and buy a cheap telescope! There's All Kinds Of Cool Stuff in the Night Sky
Yesterday, millions of people worldwide could see a close three-way conjunction of Venus, Jupiter and the crescent moon. The next time the two planets and the moon will be as close and visible will be on November the 18th, 2052.
, and all kinds of Merit Badges and Science Fair Projects!