Hello I’m Charon. You might know me as Pluto’s “moon.” I’ve remained silent in the planet/not-a-planet controversy regarding Pluto, but I can remain silent no longer. The International Astronomical Union has decided to demote my life partner Pluto and take away his status as a planet. This blatant, divisive, and cruel discrimination can not stand.
Pluto and I are no strangers to controversy. Our very discovery was controversial. Percival Lowell’s outer-solar system witch hunt first outed us in 1930 due to the public’s panic about a supposed gravitational “influence” over Neptune. Well, now the truth is out there- our supposed “influence” on Neptune is minimal, people: minimal. Neptune is his own planet, and he lives his own life. As for us, we could live with the strange looks and being snubbed by space probes. But this time the astronomy establishment has crafted an arbitrary definition of “planet” simply to exclude Pluto. This is discrimination at its worst.
Am I not a planet? Do I not orbit the Sun? Am I not rounded by the gravity of my own mass? What more could you want? Yes, our orbit has been described as “eccentric”– but I’m here to tell you that this is an astronomy codeword for “inferior.” You can dress it up in all the euphemisms you want, astronomy, but it is still the language of hate. It’s time we stood up and proudly proclaimed that our orbit isn’t eccentric- it’s QUEER!
Obviously, panicked, conservative astronomers no longer want Pluto and I in the list of planets where children would have to be taught about us and our lifestyle. By demoting us, they think they can sweep us under the rug, out of sight, and pretend that moons orbiting planets and planets orbiting suns in neat little ellipses in the same plane is the somehow the “natural” order of things, despite the reality of the universe.
What they find even worse is that I don’t orbit Pluto. And Pluto doesn’t orbit me. We orbit EACH OTHER. We are not a planet and moon, but a double planet! Our relationship is an EQUAL partnership, and it is this fact that so frightens the establishment. Our existence challenges the so-called “traditional values” of the planet-moon relationship where the moon is always in the inferior position, and “knows their place.”
It’s sad that the astronomy establishment sees our equality as a threat that must be suppressed. A threat so great they feel they must revoke our status as planet. The IAU will no longer legally recognize our partnership, and will deny such recognition to all future double planets, or even, “God forbid” triple planets. But we’re here, we’re queer, we’re Kuiper! And we’re not going anywhere- in fact, our numbers are growing. Sedna, Quaoar, Varuna, – sure our names may not be from classic Roman mythology, we may not have the topography and atmospheres the “establishment” says is proper, but we all orbit the same sun as you.
The IAU has chosen to discriminate against Pluto by assigning it a status separate from the “classical” planets, and calling it something other than “planet.” Separate is not equal. Especially when the separate status thrust upon us is “dwarf.” Dwarf? We’re not dwarfs- YOU, you the astronomers, are the dwarfs- dwarfed in spirit, dwarfed in mind, dwarfed in imagination. Your hide-bound, outdated, antiquated prejudices have left you unable to see that all planetary bodies are created equal. Your plutophobia sickens and disgusts me.
There’s no need for it to be like this. Dark matter is 90% of the universe; regular matter, the type of matter that makes up planetary stalwarts like Jupiter, Earth, and Mars–is the very same stuff that makes up Pluto, myself, and a whole host of bodies you’ve probably never even taken the time to be aware of. We’re all part of the same, precious 10%. And it’s high time we all saw that.
We all orbit one, solitary star. Let’s try to remember that.