The big day is finally arrived: in just a few hours, we are about to get our closest look yet at Pluto. Call it what you will – planet, dwarf planet, even the last word in that classic American solar system mnemonic (“My very educated mother just served us nine pizza-pies” – sung to the tune of “Swannee River“) – it’s a big day for science, and it’s a big day for our species.
If you want to learn more about the history of Pluto’s discovery in a truly entertaining way, I can highly recommend the lab lit classic novel The Unfixed Stars (its UK title; in America it was called Percival’s Planet). Penned by the fabulous Michael Byers, it’s a fictionalised account of the painstaking identification of the heavenly body by a Kansas farm boy. Byers brings the story to life by imbedding it in a colorful and vivid story – not all of whose elements are true.
But that’s just part of the fun!