Generations of children, who have grown up over the past 76 years under the illusion that Pluto was the ninth planet of the solar system, will be wrong with retrospective effect.
The International Astronomical Union (IAU) has just met in Prague and demoted Pluto to the level of a dwarf planet on the grounds that despite orbiting the Sun, it neither has sufficient mass for its self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces so that it assumes a nearly round shape nor has it cleared the neighbourhood around its orbit.
After being ejected from the big league, Pluto will now join the asteroid Ceres — also a planet in the 19th century — and UB313, nicknamed Zena by its discoverer Michael Brown of the California Institute of Technology.
While TV anchors all over the world, including the PYTs (Pretty Young Things) on Indian TV news-channels, have tried to cheer up the erstwhile planet by saying things like “We still love you Pluto”, the demotion goes against the grain of the latest trends in all non-planetary spheres where the norm is to keep adding to the number instead of subtracting!
Take the European Common Market that started off with just six member-states and now has more than quadrupled to suit its present nomenclature of the European Union (EU) to an extent where even Turkey is on the short-list for admission despite parts of that country lying in what has traditionally been regarded as Asia Minor.
Take the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), which now includes nation-states that are so far away from the Atlantic that they were once part of the Soviet Union. Or take India’s reservation quota for jobs and admissions, which has doubled to almost 50% in just six decades of independence.
Fortunately, Pluto has not yet been demoted from its status of the household pet in Mickey Mouse comics where children can still identify with it!