Brown: How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming
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Mike Brown, How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming. New York : Spiegel & Grau, 2010. xiii + 267 pages; includes index.
I read (or more accurately, listened, since I purchased this as an unabridged audio book) because I was disappointed when Pluto was no longer listed as our ninth planet. Like many others, I grew up learning the nine planets, and while it was sometimes confusing to me about which planet was positioned where, Pluto was always easy to identify! It was always the tiny planet WAY OUT THERE away from everyone else, maybe even a bit lonely. But to be fair, I had no scientific reason for being unhappy that Pluto was now tagged as a "dwarf planet"; my reasons were purely emotional and sentimental. When I came upon this book, it seemed like the perfect time to get better educated on this matter, and determine if my unscientific reasons could be justified.
The author, Mike Brown, is a CalTech astronomer who has been looking for and discovering new objects in our solar systems for many years. In fact, he discovered what would have been our tenth planet, Eris, had the definition of "planet" not been changed. Over the course of the book, we learn the process that astronomers use to search the sky using specially-designed cameras and telescopes, and how computers and software help astronomers decipher what they see. It's not all glamorous!
By the end of the book, I have to admit I was convinced: Pluto should be listed as a "dwarf planet". But I recommend this book to anyone who has even a passing interest in astronomy, not just an interest in the "is it a planet?" debate. The book is very approachable.
-- Notes by LFW