Skip to comments.Venetia Burney, the 11 year old girl who named Pluto
Posted on 12/07/2013 5:10:59 PM PST by lee martell
This writing was inspired by a FR article from yesterday about a new planet that has been discovered, and has not been named yet. I started reading about the other planet name orgins and came across the story of Venetia Burney. You may already know of her. On March 14, 1930, 11 year old Venetia and her family were eating breakfast at their home in Oxford England, discussing the biggest news of the day; the discovery of a new planet. Venetia's grandfather, Falconer Madan, retired head an Oxford library read to her from the London Times;. "New Planet; Discovery by Lowell Observatory. Prof. Harlow Shapley, Director of the Harvard Observatory, announced today the discovery of a ninth major planet. The planet is beyond Neptune. It is probably larger than Earth, but smaller than Uranus."
There was wild and enthusiastic speculation on what the name would be or should be. Everyone with any interest or connection to Astronomy had their own idea for the name. Venetia was well familiar with Greek and Roman mythology, and futher had recently been aquainted with the planets and their relative distances from the Sun during a nature walk lesson at school. As the family discussed what the name should be, she said "I think Pluto would be a good name for it". Pluto is the God of the underworld, who could make himself invisible and dwelt in a place that sunlight didn't reach. It seemed a fitting mane for a dark, remote planet.
Her grandfather immediately suggested the name to a friend of his, Herbert Hall Turner, professor of astronomy at the University of Oxford, who was attending a meeting of the Royal Astronomical Society (RAS) in London at the time. There was already a heated debate in Flagstaff Arizona on the name, but not as much at Oxford until this point.
When it finally came to a vote as to what to officially name this new planet, it was unanimous, and Venetia became the second person in her family to name a celestial body. Her great uncle, Science Master of Eton Henry Madan, in 1877 suggested the name for two dwarf moons of Mars; Deimos and Phobos. Venetia was thought by some to have named the planet after the Walt Disney dog character Pluto, something she angrily dismissed. The Disney charater was not introduced until a year later in 1931. At that time it was called Rover. Mickey's dog did not get the name Pluto until after his debut in Moose Hunt, released in April of 1931. "It has now been satisfactorily proven that the dog was named after the planet instead of the other way around. So one is now vindicated" she said during a 2006 interview.
Venetia died in 2009 at age of 90. Three years later, Pluto was demoted to a dwarf planet. The jury of public opinion is still out on that decision.
Came for the Pluto the Pup reference.
New Horizons is currently 4 light hours out and 4.65 AU from Pluto.
Now that’s just plain Goofy....
Well ... Pluto will always be one of the nine planets of our solar system, to me.
"To Pluto And Far Beyond" By David H. Levy, Parade, January 15, 2006 -- We don't have a dictionary definition yet that includes all the contingencies. In the wake of the new discovery, however, the International Astronomical Union has set up a group to develop a workable definition of planet. For our part, in consultation with several experienced planetary astronomers, Parade offers this definition: A planet is a body large enough that, when it formed, it condensed under its own gravity to be shaped like a sphere. It orbits a star directly and is not a moon of another planet.
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If it wasn’t for Venus already existing her first name Venetia would have made a fine name for a planet I suppose...
Some of them.
My dad was running around barefoot and picking cotton. He learned life lessons instead of book learning.
When I was a child I learned that Pluto was chosen because it started with “Pl,” which were the initials of the astronomer Percival Lowell.
July 14th 2015.
Hey, nowhere in that post , does it give credit to Clyde Tombough, who discovered it! I knew him as he was a member of the Las Cruses astronomical society. I sat next to him at one of the meetings and noticed his watch, a Walt Disney Pluto time piece. He was a kind and gentle man.
Clyde Tombough does certainly deserve credit for his discovery y and recognizing this object for what it really is. He should be spoken of in our discussion. of today.
I should have said the education standards were far higher back then, to where you’re average 12 yr old who stayed in school had already learned more than a high school graduate of today.
We are going in the opposite direction of what we should be.
Popeye’s nemesis “Brutus” was renamed Pluto in honor of the new planet also.
I had the good fortune to hear Mr. Tombaugh speak in 1990—a memorable experience. He was very enthusiastic about astronomy.
His name was Brutus or Bluto, with a B.
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