The New York Times bestseller: "You gotta read this. It is the most exciting book about Pluto you will ever read in your life." —Jon Stewart
When the Rose Center for Earth and Space at the American Museum of Natural History reclassified Pluto as an icy comet, the New York Times proclaimed on page one, "Pluto Not a Planet? Only in New York." Immediately, the public, professionals, and press were choosing sides over Pluto's planethood. Pluto is entrenched in our cultural and emotional view of the cosmos, and Neil deGrasse Tyson, award-winning author and director of the Rose Center, is on a quest to discover why. He stood at the heart of the controversy over Pluto's demotion, and consequently Plutophiles have freely shared their opinions with him, including endless hate mail from third-graders. With his inimitable wit, Tyson delivers a minihistory of planets, describes the oversized characters of the people who study them, and recounts how America's favorite planet was ousted from the cosmic hub.
From Pluto's 1930 discovery to the emotional reaction worldwide to its demotion from planetary status, astrophysicist, science popularizer and Hayden Planetarium director deGrasse Tyson (Death by Black Hole) offers a lighthearted look at the planet. Astronomical calculations predicted the presence of a "mysterious and distant Planet X" decades before Clyde Tombaugh spotted it in 1930. DeGrasse Tyson speculates on why straw polls show Pluto to be the favorite planet of American elementary school students (for one, "Pluto sounds the most like a punch line to a hilarious joke"). But Pluto's rock and ice composition, backward rotation and problematic orbit raised suspicions. As the question of Pluto's nature was being debated by scientists, the newly constructed Rose Center for Earth and Space at the Hayden Planetarium quietly but definitively relegated Pluto to the icy realm of Kuiper Belt Objects (cold, distant leftovers from the solar system's formation), raising a firestorm. Astronomers discussed and argued and finally created an official definition of what makes a planet. This account, if a bit Tyson-centric, presents the medicine of hard science with a sugarcoating of lightness and humor. 35 color and 10 b&w illus.
A good book but...
A great read on the history, cultural significance, and debate surrounding the fall of Pluto from the planetary line up. This book makes a great companion to the PBS NOVA program of the same name, but in the iBook version I purchased is was deceitfully short as the last 40 pages or so were one line references to other authors or quotes that were used in the book.
Buy this book!
If I have any complaint it's that I did not read this sooner. It was fun, informative, and a great read.