Pluto Demoted Day

For about 76 years, Pluto was regarded as our solar system’s 9th planet, and it was a planet that just about everyone could love and appreciate. Sure, this planet was really far off, and we never really got a chance to know it as well as we would’ve liked, but its presence as a planet was still comforting to most people.

Then the unthinkable happened in 2006. Pluto’s grand position in our solar system as a planet was suddenly stripped from it. It was demoted to a dwarf planet, much to everybody’s dismay. Now, all we can do is observe Pluto Demoted Day every year on August 24th to remember this planetary body’s nearly 8-decade reign as the 9th planet of our solar system.

The History Of Pluto Demoted Day

In 1894, Percival Lowell founded Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona, and in 1906, he started a project to search for a potential 9th planet that he initially called Planet X. He conducted his search until 1916, when he died, but had no luck in identifying a planet.

Although his surveys did capture a couple of faint images of Pluto in March and April of 1915, he didn’t recognize them for what they were. Percival’s widow, Constance Lowell, wanted to preserve her husband’s legacy, so she entered into a decade-long fight with Lowell Observatory.

This resulted in the search for Planet X being put off until 1929 when Clyde Tombaugh was appointed observatory director. Pluto was first discovered by astronomer Clyde Tombaugh in 1930. When it was first discovered, it was met with a lot of excitement, and people wrote from all over the world with suggestions for naming the new planet.

Some people believed that the planet should be named Atlas, while others thought Zymal would be an appropriate name. Constance Lowell suggested the name Zeus be used for the name, and when that was dismissed, she suggested it be named Percival. That name was also dismissed.

Her final recommendation was her own name, Constance, but that too was dismissed outright. Finally, a suggestion was found among the letters that suggested the name Pluto. This was proposed by an 11-year-old schoolgirl from Oxford, England who was interested in classical mythology.

Her name was Venetia Burney. Lowell Observatory whittled the list of potential names down to Pluto, Cronus, and Minerva and put it to a vote. Pluto won unanimously. Pluto was the Roman god of the underworld, and it seemed to be the perfect name for this mysterious planet.

During the 1990s, it was found that Pluto wasn’t the only body orbiting in the Kuiper Belt in the same volume. This immediately put its position as a planet in jeopardy as it didn’t seem to have the clearing effect that most planets have around their orbit. Pluto’s planetary controversy continued until August of 2006 when an IAU Resolution created a definition for what could be called a planet.

According to its resolution, before an object can be called a planet it has to 1) be in orbit around the Sun, 2) must be massive enough to be rounded by its own gravity, and 3) it must have cleared the neighborhood around its orbit. Since Pluto fails to meet the third condition, it lost its planetary status, and Pluto Demoted Day was born.

Observing Pluto Demotion Day

Anyone wishing to observe this day can do so by remembering Pluto. You can learn more about this planet, have a Pluto party, or use the hashtag #PlutoDemotionDay on your social media accounts.

When is it?
This year (2024)
August 24 Saturday
Next year (2025)
August 24 Sunday
Last year (2023)
August 24 Thursday
Nature & Environment, Science