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Does Anyone Still Consider Pluto to Be a Planet?

Pluto was demoted from "planet" to "dwarf planet" in 2006, but in New Mexico, Pluto hasn't lost its star quality. In 2007, the state legislature voted to continue recognizing Pluto as a planet whenever it passes overhead through New Mexico's night skies. Part of the reasoning was that the astronomer who discovered Pluto in 1930, Clyde Tombaugh, was a longtime resident of Las Cruces, where he taught at New Mexico State University from 1955 to 1973. Pluto was downgraded by the International Astronomical Union when it was determined that, although Pluto orbits the Sun and is "massive enough to be rounded by its own gravity," it does not have enough gravitational pull to be considered a planet.

Pluto and Clyde:

  • Clyde Tombaugh died in Las Cruces in 1997. A portion of his ashes were placed in a container onboard NASA's New Horizons spacecraft. New Horizons completed its flyby of Pluto in 2015.
  • Since its discovery in 1930, Pluto has only completed about one-third of an orbit around the Sun.
  • Pluto's s surface temperature is approximately -375 degrees F (-226 C).
Discussion Comments
By anon1000936 — On Feb 03, 2019

In my 1965 H.S. yearbook I stated that my life ambition was to "discover a new planet". Around 1990, I read that Clyde Tombaugh was going to be a guest speaker at our local Community college. I wound up forgetting about the event. Years later, I later read that Tombaugh had passed and I realized that I had missed the opportunity of a lifetime. I could have brought my yearbook up to him and had it signed! Ironically, I share the same last name as the man whose discovery initiated Pluto's downfall: Brown. Although my particular dream of planetary discovery never came to fruition, I did become a science educator and teach astronomy. Long live Pluto!

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