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August 27, 2006

Pluto's Founder's Widow Shaken

Patricia Tombaugh When the International Astronomical Union (IAU) decided to declassify Pluto as a planet, they were unlikely aware of the fact that their actions were going to disrupt the life of Patricia Tombaugh, the 93 year old widow of Clyde Tombaugh. Clyde, who died in 1997, discovered Pluto in 1930. According to an Associated Press report filed on August 24, Mrs. Tombaugh told a reporter in a telephone interview from her home in Las Cruces, New Mexico that she was not "heartbroken...just shook up." She told a reporter for the Reuters news agency "...we had a job to do -- a position with the whole community, the whole world for that matter, we did our thing and now it's over, I guess." The city of Las Cruces has honored the Tombaugh name by attaching it to an elementary school that opened in 1990.

Clyde Tombaugh realized he had discovered Pluto on February 18, 1930.

When I took the photographs, I had no idea that Pluto's image was on those plates, not until I began to scan them carefully some time later. In fact, it was several weeks later when I got to that pair. I had taken the plates of the telescope the previous month, in January 1930. I did not know that I had recorded the image of Pluto on those plates, until I scanned them later in February...I realized in a few seconds' flash that I'd made a great discovery, that I'd become famous, and I didn't know what would happen after that. It was a very intense thrill. You don't have that kind of a thrill very often.

On August 24, 2006 after 76 years of being a member of our solar system's roster of planets, Clyde Tombaugh's celestial discovery was demoted to sub-planetary status. Not only has this action disrupted Patricia Tombaugh and her friends and relatives it has disrupted the Cosmic Baseball Association by calling into question the future status of the Planets, a cosmic baseball team. (A decision by CBA's board of directors had already concluded that prior games and statistics associated with the Planets would remain official despite the ruling of the IAU. However, that directive did not specify a future course of action. Will the Planets, less Pluto, be able to play cosmic baseball? You have to have at least nine players on a team. Several fans and scholars of cosmic baseball have pointed out that the Sun and the Moon have been official members of the team's roster so that there remain enough players to officially field the team.)

On a related note, a team of COBRA scholars has already begun looking at the meta-ramifications of the Plutonic demotion. Will Pluto's downward reclassification have implications for the various plutocracies on planet Earth? What is the connection between the Greek concept of wealth (ploutos) and Tombaugh's Pluto? Researching how the former planet received its name, COBRA scholars found Tombaugh's explanation:

How did you name it Pluto? Pluto was the god of the underworld. The lower world, I guess it would be better to say -- of Hades. Pluto's out there far from the sun, where sunlight, at the average distance, is only one sixteen-hundredth as bright as on earth. Rather dark. And if you think of Hades as a dimly lighted place or outer darkness, it kind of fits in somewhat with the characteristics of Pluto probably, or of Hades. So it seemed fairly appropriate from that standpoint. And then when the satellite of Pluto was discovered in 1978 by Christy at the Naval Observatory, he named it Charon because his wife's name was Charlene. Charon was the boatman who ferried the souls of the dead across the river Styx to Pluto's realm of Hades. So the satellite name fits in very well with Pluto, you see.

The almanac says that the name came from the initials Percival Lowell. Well, that was another reason, but not the main reason. Of course, they used the first two letters, Percival Lowell. But that was not the main reason. That was somewhat of a coincidence.

How soon did the planet get its name? In April, the following month. We considered many names of course, and Pluto was the final. It was chosen by the staff of the Lowell Observatory. The Lowell Observatory Director proposed to the American Astronomical Society and the Royal Astronomical Society of Great Britain that this name be given to the planet, and both bodies accepted it unanimously. So we knew the name would stick.

(Reference: Clyde Tombaugh Interview, October 26, 1991. Las Cruces, New Mexico)

Now, we await Mrs. Tombaugh's petition enabling the nomination of an official cosmic team honoring worthy wives...(just in case the Cosmic Baseball Association decides to de-contract and become more, not less, inclusive.)




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August 21, 2006

Cosmic Team Nomination Form is Online

Link to Cosmic Team Nomination Form "Baseball is a game between two teams of nine players each" (Major League Baseball Rule 1.01)

The Cosmic Baseball Association has reactivated the Cosmic Baseball Team Nomination process with a new online form that requests nine players and a team name. The team creation process begins with the form. If the Nomination Committee accepts the nomination, a personal cosmic game will be played. Results of the first game will determine the next steps. In some cases, winning teams will advance and eventually the prize at the end of the tunnel would be the team's assignment to a cosmic baseball league.




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August 14, 2006

Official Roster of Planets to be Reviewed

Pluto- A Favored Planet in 1999 Scientists descending on Prague this week for the International Astronomers Union meeting will grapple with the official planetary roster for this solar system. One American astronomer, Richard Binzel, says delegates will be trying to define how big a planet must be. He says Pluto's size means it might not make the grade and could instead be referred to as one of a collection of ice balls in the outer solar system.

The status of Pluto as the ninth planet has some relevance to Cosmic Baseball Association fans. The Planets are a favorite non-humanoid cosmic baseball team appearing in personal cosmic baseball games (Muses @ Planets; Signs @ Planets). If the IAU demotes Pluto to an asteroid or declares it a trans-Neptunian object, the CBA will be required to remove Pluto from the Planet's roster. Further, with only eight remaining player planets, the team would no longer be eligible to play cosmic baseball games.

The possibility of Pluto's cosmic demotion comes just months after the launch of the New Horizons spacecraft. New Horizons is scheduled to be the first vessel from planet Earth to "visit" Pluto. New Horizons departed Earth on January 19, 2006 and is scheduled to arrive in the plutonian suburbs in 2015.

To some extent the fate of Pluto is tied to the fate of other celestial objects in the so-called Kuiper Belt. Cosmic object 2003 UB313 was announced as a possible tenth planet in 2005 by NASA. Photographs taken of the object by the Samuel Oschin Telescope on October 21, 2003 led scientists to call the orb a planet on January 8, 2005. Euphemistically named "Xena" planet-elect 2003 UB313 is still waiting for an official name. In 2005 it was thought that the planetary roster was about to undergo a growth spurt with the infusion of talent from the Kuiper Belt. Kuiper Belt Object UB313 is larger than Pluto; but so are at least seven moons in our solar system including Earth's own moon ("Luna"). And it is possible that there are a number of other (KBOs) that exceed the size of Pluto and might qualify as planets. Or, more likely, Pluto and the other trans-Neptunian phenomena will have to settle for sub-planet status.

Clyde Tombaugh, Discoverer of PlutoPluto was discovered by astronomer Clyde Tombaugh on February 18, 1930. By his own estimate, Tombaugh was an early intellectual interested in the heavens. His grade school comrades saw this, "I guess they thought I was a little odd. I was always interested in intellectual things. I was always interested in sports too. I played baseball in grade school and then in high school I was on the track and field team. I was the school's star pole vaulter." Tombaugh discovered Pluto two years before he went to college. He found the planet that Percival Lowell had theorized existed ("Planet X") by examining photographs of the stars using a "Blink-Comparator" machine , that compared two plates rapidly in alternating views, to see if any change occurred on the star field. Why call the planet Pluto? Tombaugh's answer...

Pluto was the god of the underworld. The lower world, I guess it would be better to say -- of Hades. Pluto's out there far from the sun, where sunlight, at the average distance, is only one sixteen-hundredth as bright as on earth. Rather dark. And if you think of Hades as a dimly lighted place or outer darkness, it kind of fits in somewhat with the characteristics of Pluto probably, or of Hades. So it seemed fairly appropriate from that standpoint. And then when the satellite of Pluto was discovered in 1978 by Christy at the Naval Observatory, he named it Charon because his wife's name was Charlene. Charon was the boatman who ferried the souls of the dead across the river Styx to Pluto's realm of Hades. So the satellite name fits in very well with Pluto, you see.

The almanac says that the name came from the initials Percival Lowell.
Well, that was another reason, but not the main reason. Of course, they used the first two letters, Percival Lowell. But that was not the main reason. That was somewhat of a coincidence.

How soon did the planet get its name?
In April [1930], the following month. We considered many names of course, and Pluto was the final. It was chosen by the staff of the Lowell Observatory. The Lowell Observatory Director proposed to the American Astronomical Society and the Royal Astronomical Society of Great Britain that this name be given to the planet, and both bodies accepted it unanimously. So we knew the name would stick. (REF: October 26, 1991 interview between Mr. Tombaugh and The Academy of Achievement in Las Cruces, New Mexico)

We will be watching the proceedings of the IAU to see if rosters need modification.

Disney's Pluto Link (Parenthetically, on September 5, 1930 Walt Disney introduced a new animated character in the form of a dog. In the cartoon "Chain Gang", Pluto, not yet named, and not yet Mickey's beloved pal, plays a prison police dog who helps track down the escaped mouse. Pluto finally debuts as the lovable and adorable bloodhound named for the recently discovered planet in the 1931 cartoon "Moose Hunt". )





August 1, 2006

Cosmic Game Report: Dragons @ Pisces

Link to Game Report The bottom dwelling Delta Dragons defeated the Paradise Pisces during a tense competition inside Paradise Park. The Pisces had an opportunity to tie the game during the bottom of the ninth inning. But race car driver and pinch hitter Lance Reventlow was struck out by Dragon reliever and blues/jazz musician Willie Littlefield. It was a most unopportunistic "K". Pisces shortstop Frédéric Chopin, representing the tying run, was stranded at secondbase. It was a most inopportunistic "K". Pisces shortstop Frédéric Chopin, representing the tying run, was stranded at second base.

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