©2009 by Donna Cunningham, MSW
One dull grey day I was desperate for something to watch on television—you know, Sunday afternoon, long holiday weekend, sick of solitaire, not into golf. I happened upon CSpan2’s book show. No, no, wake up, I promise you this is interesting!
It was about Pluto and the enduring brouhaha about whether it’s a planet or not. As someone who has written possibly the longest-running book on Pluto in our field (Healing Pluto Problems at http://www.redwheelweiser.com ) and who has been dubbed Our Lady of Pluto by some of her peers, you can understand that I have rather strong feelings on the topic. And since Pluto is in a powerful stationary period these days, this is an opportune time to look at a controversy that just won’t go away.
You may recall that on August 24, 2006, a meeting of the International Astronomical Union voted to demote it from a planet to a Kuiper Belt Object—a cold, distant leftover from the solar system’s formation. Since when did science become a democracy, I want to know? And how much of a democracy was it really? The decision came under fire because only 4% of the IAU’s scientists participated in the vote. (Read about the process here: Pluto Not a Planet, Astronomers Rule.)
Apparently astrologers weren’t the only folks outraged by this ruling. Feelings still run high around the globe, as a CNN article ( Pluto Not a Planet, Astronomers Rule) published on the 3rd anniversary—8/24/09—details:
“It was three years ago Monday that the International Astronomical Union demoted Pluto from a planet to a dwarf planet, a decision that made jaws drop around the world. An outcry followed, textbooks had to be rewritten, long-held beliefs were shattered, and many people felt our cosmic neighborhood just didn’t seem the same with eight–instead of nine–planets in the solar system. Today, debate still rages over how to classify the little celestial body, along with others orbiting the sun, but the IAU stands by its definition.
“Earlier this year, the Illinois Senate adopted a resolution declaring that Pluto was ‘unfairly downgraded’ and restoring ‘full planetary status’ to the celestial body as it ‘passes overhead through Illinois’ night skies.’ It also designated March 13, 2009, as ‘Pluto Day’ in honor of the date that its discovery was announced in 1930. (In case you are wondering why the state is so passionate about Pluto: Clyde Tombaugh, who discovered the planet-now-dwarf-planet, was born in Illinois.)
“Meanwhile, New Mexico’s House of Representatives proclaimed February 18, 2009, as ‘Pluto is a Planet in New Mexico Day’ and praised Tombaugh, who worked in the state for decades and died there in 1997.”
The renowned astrophysicist featured in the program I watched was the head of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, Neil deGrasse Tyson. Author of several popular books on astronomy, his latest is The Pluto Files: The Rise and Fall of America’s Favorite Planet (W.W. Norton & Co., 2009) available new and used at http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0393065200. His entertaining and interesting book is a chronicle of Pluto’s discovery and the eventual controversy over whether to consider it a planet or not. (You can find part of the video at: http://www.channels.com/search?search_box=Neil+deGrasse+Tyson+The+Pluto+Files&search_type=Episode#/search?search_box=Neil+deGrasse+Tyson+The+Pluto+Files&search_type=Episode.)
Tyson’s book traces the history of Pluto and the recent debate over its planethood, citing its entrenchment in America’s cultural and patriotic view of the cosmos to explain its considerable popularity and the reasons behind why so many people campaigned for the preservation of its status. Then it presents a scrapbook-like record of the public outcry, including many letters by school children in defense of what was voted their favorite planet.
In an interview for Time Magazine, Tyson speculated that children love it because, “Disney’s dog Pluto was sketched the same year the cosmic object was discovered. And Pluto was discovered by an American. So here you have a recipe for Americans falling in love with a planet that really is just a tiny ice ball.”
Does this Tyson guy sound like a jerk? As a dyed-in-the wool Plutonian, I was prepared to hate him and would have clicked him off in a Pluto-lovin’ minute, but I was in the end stages of terminal boredom. By the close of the program, this engaging, brilliant, witty devil in astrophysicist disguise had partially pried open my tightly-shut mind on the subject of Pluto as a non-planet.
(Parents, this shocking example of the persuasive powers of the media demonstrates why you want to monitor your children’s TV viewing very closely! If you take a chance on watching the video, you might be seduced too–his page on the Hayden Planetarium’s website notes that Tyson was voted
Sexiest Astrophysicist Alive by People Magazine in 2000.)
And—although I’ve never been a fan of the zillions of asteroids people pepper their charts with—Tyson even opened my mind all the way into thinking, “What if, like he says, Ceres is more of a planet than Pluto?” It kind of had me wondering what Ceres represents in my chart. The only thing is, I have no idea where my Ceres is. I think I might have lost it in one of my cross-country moves. Or, maybe it’s in one of those moldy boxes in the storage room.
Okay, it’s ridiculous to have to do this but, in self-defense, does everyone understand that the last several paragraphs were written in jest? A couple of months back, some humor-challenged science dudes and raging skeptics and probaby a stray astronomer or two took one of my tongue in cheek posts perfectly literally and posted a link to it on a couple of websites (something like /badastronomy/yaddayadda.com and astrologyisreallyreallystupid.com). Following the link, 1300 of them descended on this defenseless blog with scathing comments about how idiotic and ignorant I was. I am NOT exaggerating, not one whit—1300 mean-spirited science dudes. So I’m letting you know that the last two paragraphs were a joke. Perhaps an emoticon is called for from here on out?
Naturally, I wondered about Tyson’s chart and couldn’t resist what I call the Astrologer’s Revenge. I peeked, and I’m posting it here. Various sites on the internet give his birthdate as October 5, 1958, New York City, time unknown. Just for fun, I cast a chart for 10:30 AM EDT, the time Pluto was on the Midheaven that day, and it turns out to have Scorpio Rising as well, with Jupiter and Neptune in that sign. The chart does make sense for someone who’d write a definitive book about Pluto, but it’s only a wild guess, not so much as rectifed by events in his life.
He has Pluto in Virgo but Uranus in Leo, and lots of Libra energy (Sun, Venus, Mercury, and North Node). That charismatic Uranus in Leo trines a scholarly Saturn in Sag, so he knows how to teach science in an exciting way. Pluto forms many aspects–a triangle with Pluto sextile Jupiter and Neptune on one side and sextile the Moon in Cancer on the other. Pluto in Virgo also squares Mars in Gemini, so he’s got a sharp, analytical, forceful mind and a fierce gift for communicating.
Okay, Dr. Tyson, Pluto MAY not be a planet, but after 40 years of observing its impact on natal charts and by transit, you’ll never convinced me it’s not important. If you, too, STILL believe Pluto is a force to be reckoned with, you’re not alone. Through the magic of the internet, you can hear another of the acknowledged experts on Pluto in our field, Erin Sullivan, in a podcast about Pluto Retrograde periods at Erin Sullivan – Pluto Unleashed with interviewer, Chris Flisher on his show, Turning of the Wheel. That site also has a podcast of an interview with me about the societal and economic changes that are accompanying Pluto’s shift from Sagittarius to Capricorn, here: Donna Cunningham – Pluto in Capricorn. And recordings of a number of other astrologers you may have wanted to hear.
More Posts about Pluto on this Blog:
- Things You May Not Know about Pluto
- Pluto in the Career Houses–The Power to Manifest or Fail for Spite
- Vocational Angst for the Pluto-Uranus in Virgo Generation
- The Steamy Side of Venus-Pluto Aspects—A Photo Gallery
- High Maintenance–a Venus-Pluto Vignette
- Mars-Pluto Aspects? Use your Manifestation Mojo!
- Pluto in Capricorn: A Laugh and a Half, by John Marchesella
- Pluto and the transiting Antiscia–not Over ’til It’s Over
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