In Defense of Pluto


Image via NASA

In August 2006, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) stripped Pluto of its title of the Solar System’s ninth planet. Pluto would henceforth be classified as a “dwarf planet” because it had not cleared the neighborhood around its orbit. In other words, the IAU punished the King of the Dead for being too lazy to pick up after himself.

Seriously, though. It’s old news. The astronomy community has moved on and the idea of the Solar System having only eight planets has slowly caught on. It doesn’t change the fact that Pluto is still out there and that it bears study. The New Horizons space probe is supposed to start snapping pictures any day now. We’ll get some stunning images. Perhaps we’ll be able to count his icy wrinkles and peer up his frost-rimed nose.

I’d written “In Defense of Pluto” after I learned that Pluto no longer measured up to Olympian standards (or the IAU’s, depending upon whom you ask). While I understood the wisdom of the overthrow, I still believed he deserved a proper defense.

by Kurt MacPhearson

You’ve called him rogue
a miser and a trickster
and though I agree he’s done
some reprehensible things
if anyone is a product of his environment
then surely this twisted old ragamuffin
can’t be blamed for snatching up a young woman
he spied picking flowers
then trapping her in his dark abode
with the offer of fruit

Decades now you’ve watched him
out there, bothering no one
while you debated his status
then finally exiled him
to the asteroid-filled fringe
without allowing for so much
as a mumbled plea
for a chance to reform

Is the boatman
now to play jailor
or just some astronomical oddity
left him for mute company?

As much as you’re ready
to remind us of the severity
of his crime
you should take into account
that Pluto’s proximation
is due to the lot he drew
when sharing the world
with his two mighty brothers
whose own crimes are innumerable
yet by sheer magnitude
and illumination
go paradoxically ignored
as you recite with tongue-in-cheek fondness
the mischief the ancients could conjure
while gazing with wonder
upon their gassy
moon-flecked eminence

Perhaps your disdain
for Pluto’s existence
comes from relative size
in a system shrinking
with our telescoping reach
or could it be
that if you look deep inside
your pitiless, scientific heart
there lies
an unspoken, irrational fear
for the King of the Dead
lurking in your perfect heavens

Originally appeared in Tales of the Tailsman 7.1


18 thoughts on “In Defense of Pluto

  1. How about a defense of the original pronunciation Of Uranus ? I believe that to be far more important than Pluto’s demotion.Do you know how many school children have been crushed and disappointed nationwide? All those jokes told in the past are now just wasted and meaningless.

    Liked by 1 person

    • “Uranus Stinks”
      Uranus stinks
      just like you would
      if chiefly comprised of gasses…

      This is a beginning of a poem I wrote a few years ago that still requires some editing. Jokes about Uranus are always fun. Kind of makes you wonder why no mythological characters took up residence around him. He’s stuck with a host of tragic Shakespearean players and a few from Alexander Pope’s “Rape of the Lock.”


    • The beekeeper thing is a matter of viewpoint. No, I don’t keep bees, however, it’s a name I earned from my wife. Her name is Melisa, which is Greek for “bee,” so I’ve been calling her “Honeybee” for twenty years. In turn, she started referring to me as “Beekeeper.” Naturally, it turned into a screen name. A number of beekeepers have been attracted to my twitter account through the name; I always follow them back because I do have an interest in bees.


      • Then you may enjoy this. It was written on a dare of sorts for my wife who is quite enamored by bees. (She can actually pet them) Generally whenever a lady reads this it is blush, giggle and then out right laughter.There are no spaces in the piece ,as at the time, wordpress was stealing any space that I inserted. w

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I had no idea that Pluton lost its planet state!… How could that happen?… Is that theory still in force nowadays or Pluton is accepted like one of the planets of the solar system or not?

    As to your poem I like it very much … ⭐

    I love these stanza in particular:

    Decades now you’ve watched him out there, bothering no one while you debated his status then finally exiled him to the asteroid-filled fringe without allowing for so much as a mumbled plea for a chance to reform

    As to the ending, I think it is truly eloquent… It is by then that Hades and his roman equivalent show up!… Gods of the Underworld and deathly realms are not welcome in the finite cosmogony of Mortals. Better ignore Pluto and its dark influences!~.

    Sending you all my best wishes and thanks for sharing dear Bryan!~ Aquileana 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • Pluto’s state has been reduced to “dwarf planet” and it appears that it will stay that way. There are at least four other objects that share the same state, one of them being Ceres, which lurks in the main asteroid belt.

      It’s strange how the two dwarf planets that are currently being studied by space probes are Pluto and Ceres, considering their mythological relationship. Perhaps they will discover Proserpina…

      All my best my dear Aquileana!


  3. On one hand, I’ve always been a bit disappointed in the demotion of Pluto. After all, I knew Clyde Tombaugh who discovered it! On the other hand, in the astronomical parlance, dwarf stars are just types of stars and dwarf galaxies are just galaxies. Calling Pluto a dwarf planet just means we now have thirteen names to memorize if we want to get all the planets! (Maybe it’s poor, unlucky 13 people *really* don’t like.) So if we want to get it right, we need to know Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Ceres, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto, Makemake, Haumea, and Eris. Now, a fun poetic challenge might be to create a new mnemonic to capture the names us old people don’t want to memorize because we think we know it all! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Triskaidekaphobia could be a reason some don’t like the change, though I think that most people simply don’t like to alter their personal catalog of facts. The fact remains that Pluto is still Pluto. It’s not as if astronomers took out their collective eraser and wiped it from the solar system. I think the change just reminds us how vast the universe really is.

      Oh, I can’t finish this comment without thanking you for first accepting this poem for Tales of the Talisman.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I liked the change in Pluto’s classification, mostly because it set the distant ice ball apart from its gassy neighbors. As for the public outcry… I think it was a good thing, simply because it drew attention to the field. A little more wouldn’t hurt.


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