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Girl Who Named Pluto, At 11, Dies At 90 158

Posted by kdawson
from the no-phair dept.
notthepainter notes the passing of the woman who, as an 11-year-old girl, named Pluto. "Frozen and lonely, Planet X circled the far reaches of the solar system awaiting discovery and a name. It got one thanks to an 11-year-old British girl named Venetia Burney, an enthusiast of the planets and classical myth. On March 14, 1930, the day newspapers reported that the long-suspected 'trans-Neptunian body' had been photographed for the first time, she proposed to her well-connected grandfather that it be named Pluto, after the Roman god of the underworld. Venetia Phair, as she became by marriage, died April 30 in her home in Banstead, in the county of Surrey, England. She was 90. ... More vexing to Mrs. Phair was the persistent notion that she had taken the name from the Disney character. 'It has now been satisfactorily proven that the dog was named after the planet, rather than the other way around,' she told the BBC. 'So, one is vindicated.' " Venetia's great-uncle Henry, who was a housemaster at Eton, had successfully proposed that the two dwarf moons of Mars be named Phobos and Deimos.
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Girl Who Named Pluto, At 11, Dies At 90

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  • Re:like a zebra. (Score:5, Informative)

    by linzeal (197905) on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @09:53PM (#27932051) Homepage Journal
    If you knew your history or had read the article linked in the header, you would.
  • by panthroman (1415081) on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @10:02PM (#27932155) Homepage

    TFA quotes Neil deGrasse Tyson saying "Pluto is the god of the underworld, a distant place you don't want to go to," and Capt. Freeman saying "Pluto is the prototype of Satan in many minds..."

    The Greek underworld is more akin to the entire Christian afterlife. Sure, it had Hell-like Tartarus [wikipedia.org], but it also had the Heaven-like Elysian Fields [wikipedia.org] (in French: Champs-Elysees), and plenty of places between.

    And Pluto/Hades was certainly no Satan! In at least one myth, the brothers Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades drew lots to see who would rule the air, sea, and underworld. Zeus drew first and chose air. Poseidon was thrilled, because he wanted the sea anyway. And poor Hades was stuck with the underworld.

    Also from TFA, "...scientists at the Lowell Observatory voted unanimously for Pluto, partly because its first two letters could be interpreted as an homage to Percival Lowell..." Very cool.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @10:14PM (#27932271)

    Fuck you, Pluto is a planet you insensitive clod!

  • Re:despite the fact (Score:4, Informative)

    by mister_playboy (1474163) on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @10:43PM (#27932567)

    Neither Neptune nor Pluto are ever bright enough to be visible to the naked eye. In optimal conditions and near its opposition with Earth, Uranus can be visible to someone with excellent eyesight.

  • Re:Damned Disney (Score:4, Informative)

    by Stormwatch (703920) <rodrigogirao.hotmail@com> on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @11:02PM (#27932703) Homepage
    By buying laws that make sure their stuff won't ever fall into public domain.
  • Re:despite the fact (Score:3, Informative)

    by east coast (590680) on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @11:41PM (#27933013)
    Neptune was not discovered via direct observation. It was discovered by abnormalities in Uranus' orbit.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 13, 2009 @01:22AM (#27933753)
    "accomplish"? ...this girl didn't accomplish anything either. She didn't discover the planet, she didn't have an inspirational idea for the name, she just had a grandfather who knew people.
  • Pluto IS a Planet (Score:2, Informative)

    by laurele (1115971) <laurelkornfeld@@@netzero...net> on Wednesday May 13, 2009 @02:07AM (#27933977)
    It should be noted that the IAUâ(TM)s controversial demotion of Pluto is very likely not the last word on the subject and in fact represents only one interpretation in an ongoing debate. Only four percent of the IAU voted on this, and most are not planetary scientists. Their decision was immediately opposed in a formal petition by hundreds of professional astronomers led by Dr. Alan Stern, Principal Investigator of NASAâ(TM)s New Horizons mission to Pluto. Stern and like-minded scientists favor a broader planet definition that includes any non-self-luminous spheroidal body in orbit around a star. The spherical part is important because objects become spherical when they attain a state known as hydrostatic equilibrium, meaning they are large enough for their own gravity to pull them into a round shape. This is a characteristic of planets and not of shapeless asteroids and Kuiper Belt Objects. Pluto meets this criterion and is therefore a planet.

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