Night Sky Network takes on Pluto!
Members of the Omaha Astronomical Society talk Pluto with the public. Inset image credit: Mark Weiss Pluto images credit: NASA/JPL

Whether you agree with our (once) 9th planet's demotion or not, everyone agrees that the issue has sparked a renewed interest in our own solar system and in the newly-discovered solar systems that lie beyond. Questions from the public abound (What classifies a planet? Should Pluto be "grandfathered" back in to planet status?) and often the most accessible place to find answers is their local astronomy club. Across the country, Night Sky Network clubs have reported an increased interest in Pluto specifically and in our companion planets in general.

"Since the IAU decision that Pluto is not a planet is so fresh and we had been having lots of questions regarding this, I had prepared a presentation on the topic of Pluto which was very well received and inspired some of the best visitor discussion and participation that I have ever encountered." Neta Fay Apple, StarGarden Foundation of Warrensburg, Missouri

"The children have brought up Pluto's status as a planet. We tell the students that the learned folks at the IAU changed the definition of what is considered a planet... We basically let them know if they want to call Pluto a planet, then they may do so." - Mark Weiss, Omaha Astronomical Society of Omaha, Nebraska

"On the second day of the event, a large number (up to 90%) of the adults that came up to our exhibit asked us "What do you think about Pluto?" This was obviously a bit of astronomical news which struck a chord with the public. They seemed very concerned over the "demise" of our 9th planet. Most of them felt the reasoning behind the decision may be sound but they were reluctant or at least found it difficult to give up this fact learned early in school and still well-remembered--there are nine planets and the ninth is Pluto. This question gave us a natural lead-in to a discussion of planets orbiting other suns." Sarah Ellen Thompson, Whatcom Association of Celestial Observers of Everson, Washington

Perhaps the renewed interest sparked by Pluto's demotion will help raise public awareness of astronomy in general. There is a lot more out there to explore and your local Night Sky Network club can help you find answers! To find a club near you, click here to visit our club finder.