Monday, Dec. 25, 2006


Kicked Down to the Minors After 76 Years
Deep down, Pluto must have known a demotion was on the way. The first hint came just a few years after its discovery in 1930 by Clyde Tombaugh. Pluto wasn't, as Tombaugh thought, the size of Earth; it was punier than the moon. Then, in the 1990s, astronomers realized there are hundreds of similar bodies out beyond Neptune. That's why the director of New York City's Hayden Planetarium dropped Pluto from its roster of planets in 2000. The final blow came last year with the discovery of Eris — like Pluto but just a bit bigger. This past summer's vote to demote by the International Astronomical Union was merely a formality. Pluto, it declared with the finality of Heidi Klum booting a designer from Project Runway, you're out.