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Planet X introduced by Neil deGrasse Tyson (7:40)

The history of Pluto, set to music, in front of more than a thousand Astronomy fans at "StarTalk Live! King of the Kuiper Belt.” Recorded live on 9.21.15 at  the Beacon Theatre as part of the Eugene Mirman Comedy Festival.  Host Neil deGrasse Tyson and guests explore everything you ever wanted to know, or never thought you could know, about Pluto, the “King of the Kuiper Belt.”


[This was originally written in 1997; the lyrics below reflect how I sing it now -- a few changes -- Clyde Tombaugh has died, the NASA Pluto Express, originally scheduled for 2003, then 2004 and called the Pluto Kuiper Express, was finally called "New Horizons" and the Flyby happened on July 14, 2015.]

In Arizona at the turn of the century,

astromathematician Percival Lowell

was searching for what he called "Planet X"

'cause he knew deep down in his soul

that an unseen gravitational presence

meant a new planet spinning in the air

joining the other eight already known

circling our sun up there

But Percival Lowell died in 1916

his theory still only a theory

'til 1930, when Clyde Tombaugh

in his scientific query

discovered "Planet X"

3.7 billion miles from our sun

a smallish ball of frozen rock,

methane and nitrogen

It joined Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars,

Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune

our solar system's newest neighbor

two-thirds the size of our moon

a tiny, barely visible speck

cold! Minus 440 below

not exactly Paradise

they named the planet Pluto

That same year, 1930, Walt Disney

debuted his own Pluto as well

but a cartoon dog with the very same name

as the CEO of Hell

was not your normal Disney style

most thought he was riding the coattails

of Pluto-mania sweeping the land

(not unlike our modern love for manatees and whales)

For the next five decades mysterious Pluto

captivated our minds

as late as 1978 its own moon Charon

was seen for the very first time

but now telescopes and satellites

and computer calculations

say that Pluto may not be a planet at all,

creating great consternation

Some scientists say that Pluto is a

"trans-Neptunian interloper"

swept away by an unknown force

or a remnant of a wayward comet

somehow sucked off course

others say that Pluto is an asteroid

in the sun's gravitational pull

but if you asked Clyde Tombaugh

he would have told you "That's all 'bull'

"I get hundreds of letters from

kids every year," he says,

"It's Pluto the planet they love.

It's not Pluto the comet,

It's not Pluto the asteroid

they wonder about above"

And at the International Astronomical

Union Working Group

For Planetary System Nomenclature

they too say that Pluto is a planet

reinforcing Clyde Tombaugh's view of nature

Norwegian Kaare Aksnes

professor at the Theoretical Astrophysics Institute

He too says that Pluto is a planet

and a signficant one, to boot

but at the Unversity of Colorado

astronomer Larry Esposito

says "If Pluto were discovered today,

it would not be a planet. End of discussion. Finito.”

He says that Pluto was definitely not spun off

from solar matter                           [that’s me w/Larry E

like the other eight planets we know      at the Fly-By!]

by every scientific measurement we have

is Pluto a planet? No!

and now 20 astronomy textbooks

refer to Pluto as less than a planet

I guess if Pluto showed up                                    

at a planet convention

the bouncer at the door might have to ban it

St. Christopher is looking down on this

and he says, "Pluto, I can relate.

When I was demoted from sainthood

I gotta tell you little buddy,

it didn't feel real great"

and Scorpios look up in dismay

because Pluto rules their sign.

Is now reading their daily Horoscope

just a futile waste of time?

It takes 248 earth years

for Pluto to circle our sun

It's tiny and it's cold

but of all heavenly bodies

it was Clyde Tombaugh's favorite one.

Til he was 92 he worked every day

in Las Cruces, New Mexico

determined to maintain the planetary status

of his beloved Pluto

But how now do we deal with it

if scientists think they have proof

that Pluto was never a planet

how do we handle this truth?

as the Ph.D's all disagree

who's wrong? who’s right?

but wherever you are, whatever you are,

Pluto, we know you're out there tonight

And on July 14th  

you got to see

the New Horizons Express

fly by and take pictures

of your way cool surface

to send to this web page address:


You've got your own web page!

For a little guy,

Pluto, you’re the bomb!

Yes, at the turn of the 20th century

astromathematician Percival Lowell

in his quest for "Planet X"

started this ball to roll,

but here in the 21st Century

we think he may have been a little off base

so we look at the sky

and wonder what new surprises

await us in outer space

We look at the sky and we

wonder . . .

Please visit my website, to view the video of this song and take the 10 Question Quiz at the end to test your knowledge of the planet Pluto.  People ask me all the time if I am pro-planet or anti-planet.  I am pro-science, so the debate continues.  Sometimes I think of Pluto as a planette.  Other times I don’t.  I’m still on the fence.