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
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, christinelavin.com 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.